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Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane.

Was Roy Keane’s flirtation with Celtic just a distraction?

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Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane.

So here are a few comments on the Roy Keane Ireland situation that you probably won’t read in too many other publications.

Why? For a start, one journalist joked with Martin O’Neill recently that he is petrified by Keano, and while the remark was meant to be funny, there may be an element of truth in it.

And for another thing, some of our papers back home are now so close to the FAI and its benefactors that they desist from telling the emperor when he is wearing no clothes.

Hence we had the description of Keane’s refusal to be considered for the Celtic manager’s job as almost heroic in some quarters on Tuesday morning.

We also failed to hear why the Celtic owner Dermot Desmond approached O’Neill, and not the FAI, seeking permission to talk to Roy Keane about the job.

Most clubs looking for the green light to approach someone do it via their employer but not Celtic in this instance, even if the approach was informal.

And nobody has yet convinced me that Keane can realistically work as assistant to O’Neill when he is working day to day with the likes of Aston Villa, as has been suggested.

One of the big deals the FAI made when O’Neill and Keane took charge was the amount of traveling they were doing as they scouted players across Britain.

O’Neill even took grave and public exception when my Sunday Times friends politely suggested that he was concentrating on grounds in the south of England and Keane tended to stay north of the Watford gap.

For a while the FAI even issued a briefing every Friday outlining exactly where Martin and Roy would be spending their Saturdays, Sundays and Monday evenings – in between Roy’s other job with ITV that is.

Now we learn that Roy spoke to Aston Villa as early as last month when Paul Lambert began the search for an assistant following an internal upheaval.

Doubtless the fact that Lambert, Keane and O’Neill all have a Celtic past aided those discussions.

And Keane – and probably O’Neill as well – is clearly of the opinion that he can do as much for Ireland in a part-time role as he can on a full-time basis. 

Good luck to him. He has always done what is right for Roy Keane and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But surely a time will come soon – if it hasn’t already arrived – when O’Neill will grow tired of the Roy Keane circus that has followed him around for the past nine months.

Ever since he decided – and he is adamant that it was his decision and only his decision – to appoint Keane as his assistant, the pair have been in the eye of a media storm.

I’ll bet many of you would struggle to name Roy Hodgson’s England assistant or identify the man who will act as number two to Brazil coach Big Phil Scolari at the World Cup finals next week.

I’ll also guarantee you that no other international manager has had to field as many questions about his assistant’s future as O’Neill has answered over the last six weeks.

At one stage, as Keane was linked with Manchester United and Celtic, O’Neill joked at the start of an Ireland press conference that he was only going to talk about Roy for 30 minutes that day. And he did!

Of course, thanks to the failure to qualify for the World Cup, which O’Neill will attend at least part of on behalf of ITV, although not Keane, who said on Tuesday he would skip the trip to focus on his coaching situation, there is a vacuum to be filled on the back pages at home right now.

And Roy Keane, love him or hate him, has always been back page manna from heaven.

Not one Irish paper desisted from the chance to name him as the next Celtic manager at least once last weekend, my own included.

And the Keane situation was again a hot topic on Wednesday when the Irish party departed on an Aer Lingus flight for New York and the friendly games against Costa Rica and Portugal.

So the sooner this Roy Keane saga comes to an end the better – for all concerned.

Martin O’Neill is the Ireland manager and has a job to do, a job he is getting to grips with if Saturday’s impressive display in the scoreless draw with Italy at Craven Cottage was anything to go by.

Instead of answering questions about Keane’s immediate future, O’Neill should be free to answer his own questions about where Ireland’s goals are going to come from in the forthcoming European Championship qualifiers.

Everything else must be a pain in the rearend for the Irish boss, a pain that was always going to be inevitable once he appointed such a high profile and contentious number two.

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