Republic of Ireland boss Martin O’Neill has apologised for making an “inappropriate” comment as he and his squad were given a big Euro 2016 send-off in Cork last week.
O’Neill, his staff and players attended an event at the city’s Opera House last Wednesday evening which was not open to the media, although excerpts were later broadcast by organisers Today FM.
However, reports have since emerged that the 64-year-old joked that he had taken coaches Steve Guppy and Steve Walford along to the Superbowl in America so people did not think he and assistant Roy Keane were “queers”.
Addressing the matter at Abbotstown yesterday afternoon, O’Neill said: “If I had made inappropriate comments, then I obviously apologise. I will attempt during the rest of my time not to make such inappropriate comments.”
O’Neill’s attempts at humour can be quirky to say the least - indeed, he often apologises for the quality, rather than subject matter, of his off-the-cuff remarks during press conferences.
However, he landed himself in hot water earlier this year when he suggested “ugly” wives and girlfriends would not be allowed into the team hotel in France this summer.
It proved an eventful trip to Cork, where Keane also made headlines with his withering assessment of the Republic’s performance in their 2-1 defeat by Belarus at Turner’s Cross last Tuesday evening.
The assistant manager said at one point, he wanted to “kill” some of the players, while winger Aiden McGeady came in for particular criticism for a lacklustre display.
However, O’Neill revealed the former Manchester United and Ireland skipper had since spoken to McGeady face-to-face.
He said: “Roy’s already had a word with him. Roy’s words were slightly on the strong side. Any pieces of criticism the players get from Roy or myself they take on board or dismiss it accordingly.
“The reaction of the players, I have to say, has been very strong. If the Belarus game was a bit of blip with some of the players being a bit rusty, then that’s absolutely fine.
“It was a godsend to have that game because some of the players hadn’t played much football and needed it.”
On the training field, there was mixed news for O’Neill as he and the squad prepare to fly out to France on Wednesday.
Skipper Robbie Keane, who has been nursing a calf problem, was able to warm-up with his team-mates, but utility man Robbie Brady joined Jonathan Walters, who also has a calf injury, on the sidelines after hurting his back over the weekend.
O’Neill said: “Robbie Keane did a little bit of work - he’s improving by the day, which is good news. Jon Walters has had a bit of a problem for the last few days, but he’s feeling a good bit better.
“He didn’t participate in training today and probably won’t tomorrow either, and we’ll see what he’s like when he gets to France. Robbie Brady suffered a back spasm at the weekend and didn’t train today.”
Asked if Keane remains on course to be fit for next Monday’s opener against Sweden, the manager added: “I don’t know if he will be available for Sweden, I couldn’t tell you. But he’s definitely improving.”