Martin O'Neill backs Roy Keane to the hilt after damning audio emerges over training ground bust-up

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill (left), assistant manager Roy Keane and coach Steve Guppy (right). O'Neill has defended Keane after his altercation with Harry Arter and Jonathan Walters

IF the assembled press were expecting Martin O’Neill to throw assistant manager Roy Keane under a bus in the Polish city of Wroclaw ahead of this evening’s international friendly they would be waiting a long time.

The Republic of Ireland manager showed admirable loyalty to the controversial Cork man after a damning audio recording claiming to be defender Stephen Ward painted the former Manchester United in a very negative light over the way in which he confronted Harry Arter and Jonathan Walters over not training.

In yesterday’s press conference O’Neill appeared to give the ‘leaked’ WhatsApp audio message legitimacy by saying Ward’s version of events differed to Keane’s over the bust-up, adding that the Burnley defender wasn’t around the Irish camp in late May.

The emergence of Ward’s critical appraisal of Keane puts the Republic of Ireland management team under serious pressure to keep hold of their respective jobs especially in light of last Thursday night’s 4-1 hammering by Wales in Cardiff.

"At the end of it all I'm actually the manager," O'Neill said.

"In my time as a manager, I've chosen two brilliant, brilliant assistant managers, two characters, two world-class players: John Robertson and the young man himself, Roy Keane.

"They're different, but at the end of it all, none of them have ever let me down. John Robertson criticised players; Roy has a different way.

"I take the responsibility for it at the end of the day because that's my job."

O’Neill also revealed that he himself had an altercation with David Meyler – who accompanied him to yesterday’s pre-match press conference – last Friday, and that arguments were part and parcel of football.

"I will be astonished if there is not a confrontation between now and November time,” O’Neill added. “If there is not, I'll start it myself."

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