Martin O'Neill defends 'brilliant' Roy Keane as WhatsApp audio leaks of foul-mouthed rant aimed at Harry Arter
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Martin O'Neill defends 'brilliant' Roy Keane as WhatsApp audio leaks of foul-mouthed rant aimed at Harry Arter

REPUBLIC of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill has defended his "brilliant" assistant Roy Keane after an audio clip emerged of his bust-up with Harry Arter.

The WhatsApp clip appeared to show defender Stephen Ward describing Keane's training ground altercation with Arter and striker Jon Walters during the summer.

In it, Ward claimed that Keane called Cardiff midfielder Arter, who is on loan from Bournemouth , a "p***k" and a "c***" - leading to the player turning his back on his country.

O'Neill confirmed in a press conference ahead of tonight's friendly against Poland that the clip had indeed been recorded by Ward, but disputed the detail of his account.

"Stephen wasn't actually there," O'Neill said. "He was just picking up on things".

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Keane was infamously forced out of Manchester United by former boss Sir Alex Ferguson after a controversial interview with the club's own TV channel in 2005, but O'Neill rejected a reporter's comparison between the two situations.

He said: "Roy Keane was the driving force of that team. He had great, great players beside him... top-class players who could have played anywhere in the world. He drove them on and they've all admitted that.

"He was looking for exacting standards and that's exactly what I want, exacting standards whatever way they are mentioned to people.

"If people are not up to them, not necessarily in terms of ability all the time, then I do think the players or other people have to have a look at them".

O'Neill added: "That's not to say that every utterance that myself or Roy Keane makes is absolutely and utterly correct."

The Republic boss also revealed he had spoken to Ward, who apologised for the leak, and dismissed suggestions it could end his international career.

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But asked if he had sympathy for the Burnley right-back, who has withdrawn from the current squad with a foot injury, he replied: "Today... probably not. Tomorrow... probably not also.

"He has been betrayed by some of his friends, who he has known for a long, long time. That will be a disappointment for him."

Meanwhile, O'Neill also suggested Arter - who he admitted may have made himself unavailable for this month's games because of his altercation with Keane - could yet reconcile his differences with Keane.

"I think there might be a bit of a reconciliation between Roy and Harry. Certainly Roy is up for that."