Martin O’Neill has joked that he has locked “Werewolf of Manchester” Roy Keane in a cage ahead of the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2016 showdown with Belgium.
During his pre-match press conference at the Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux on Friday afternoon, manager O’Neill was asked about his assistant manager.
He replied with a smile: “I was wondering how long it would take to get a question on Mr Keane. He’s fine, he’s fine, he really is fine.
“We locked him up about 25 minutes ago and I don’t think we are going to allow him to come here. He’s caged in at this minute as his beard gets longer and uglier. But he’s good – in fact, he’s been very good.”
O’Neill then turned to defender John O’Shea and said: “Would you agree, John?”
The Sunderland skipper answered: “Yes, I agree, yes. Definitely the beard is getting slightly longer,” before O’Neill added: “He’s the werewolf of Manchester.”
The exchange was indicative of the relaxed mood within the Ireland camp ahead of a key fixture in their campaign as they look for the victory they will probably need to go through from tough clashes with the Belgians and Group E leaders Italy after Monday night’s 1-1 draw with Sweden.
O’Neill and Keane, who agreed new contracts before the tournament got under way, steered their side to France via the play-offs, and the partnership is one the players have bought into.
O’Shea said: “Since they have worked together, it’s been a fantastic combination, so hopefully it will keep getting better and better.”
Keane has been made headlines throughout the Republic preparations, claiming he felt like killing some of the players after a friendly defeat by Belarus and telling winger Aiden McGeady some home truths about his form.
Since the squad’s arrival in France, he has repeated his claim he would have kicked Belgium star Eden Hazard on the training pitch if he were a team-mate after he spoke about Paris St Germain’s interest in him.
Keane has shown his humorous side too and was caught on film causing goalkeeping coach Seamus McDonagh to trip as they prepared for training at the Republic’s base at the Stade de Montbauron in Versailles.