Richard Keogh made a mistake but I'm not going to cast first stone says Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy
MICK McCarthy has come out in support of under-fire former Ireland skipper Richard Keogh, the Derby County defender who was seriously injured in a drink-driving incident last month.
Keogh, capped 26 times by the Republic, is facing 15 months out after he suffered two ACL knee ligament injuries as a backseat passenger in a crash which saw Mason Bennett (his team-mate at Derby) charged with drink-driving.
McCarthy was critical of the 33-year-old – Derby's club captain at the time of incident - for getting into a car driven by someone who had been drinking but he added that he felt “desperately sorry” for Keogh.
“He's a by-product of it, of course he is because he's been out having a drink. But I don't think for one minute that because he is the captain of the team he could have said to any of them: ‘You've all got to get in your cars and go home'.
“He's the one that's getting battered for it and he's in the back of the car.
“Should he have been in a car with somebody drink-driving? No, he shouldn't. Should he have been part of that? No, he shouldn't.
“But I do feel desperately sorry for him because at his age and with the injury that he's got, it's career threatening, there is no doubt about that.
McCarthy described Essex-born Keogh – whose father hails from Carlow – as an “exemplary” character and said it was for others to “cast the first stone” in relation to his wrongdoing.
“His character is exemplary but of course he's made a mistake,” he said.
“Of course you can say that he has got in a car with somebody who has been drinking but I'll let you lot (journalists at yesterday's press conference) cast the first stone on that because I'm not going to do it.”
Keogh had been ever-present in central defence in all five of Ireland's Euro 2020 qualifiers but he will miss the remainder of the campaign and next summer's finals tournament should the Republic qualify.
There was better news for fans of Burnley's Robbie Brady. McCarthy says affable Dubliner Brady – hero of Euro 2016 with an unforgettable late winner against Italy – has “the twinkle back in his eye”. “Ultimately we all want to qualify for the Euros and if Robbie had been playing, I can't say he'd be a shoo-in - that would be wrong, it can't be the case because there might be someone playing better than him – but he'd be right at the head of my thoughts to be in the squad for the Euros if he's playing on a regular basis,” said McCarthy.
“That's now much I like him and rate him.
“He's had three minutes, I think, that was his football this year in terms of competitive football. He came on, TC (Terry Connor, assistant-manager) was at the game, Villa versus Burnley, on Sunday and Robbie Brady got three minutes.
“Dychey (Burney manager Sean Dyche) says he looks good, he's got that twinkle in his eye and he's back training and ready to play but he's had three minutes of football.”
Meanwhile, McCarthy appears to be moving on without the services of experienced Southampton striker Shane Long and Crystal Palace midfielder James McCarthy. Former Everton star McCarthy switched to the Eagles during the summer but hasn't been able to break into the team.
“I'm not convinced he'd get in anyway,” said Mick McCarthy.
“The three lads who have been playing are all playing – Glenn Whelan, Jeff Hendrick and Conor Hourihane – have all played recently and they've all been different class playing for me.
“The other two lads who came in (against Bulgaria) – Josh Cullen and Alan Browne did really well and Jack (Byrne) came in and did really well. So why would I change it? He's hardly played any football since he's gone to Crystal Palace.”