Keane savages 'mentally weak' Ireland players

Roy Keane yesterday launched a savage attack on the Republic of Ireland players and the Irish football establishment for their complaints about Thierry Henry's handball and told them they were just sympathy-seeking, "mentally weak" hypocrites who should "get over it".

Even by Keane's standards it was an extraordinary rant which laid waste to a number of the former Ireland captain's enemies including the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) chief executive John Delaney, and the team-mates that he believed betrayed him at the 2002 World Cup finals.

Although Keane returned to play for the Ireland team two years after his walkout from the World Cup training base in Saipan in 2002, he has clearly never forgiven Delaney. Now Ipswich Town manager, his implied attack on the likes of Robbie Keane, Shay Given and Damien Duff – all relatively junior players in 2002 – underlined his utter contempt for Irish football.

Ahead of Ipswich's game against Sheffield Wednesday today Keane said that his former team-mates only had themselves to blame. "Ireland had chances at Croke Park and in Paris but didn't take them," he said. "France were there for the taking but Ireland never grabbed it – as usual.

"They were afraid of that next step and were mentally not strong enough. They can complain all they want. That is not going to change anything. France are going to the World Cup – get over it. They want sympathy as usual. It is the usual carry on and it is boring."

The Irish have not made it to a major tournament since 2002 when Keane walked out because of what he described as Ireland's "Third World" approach to their training camp and preparations.

Keane also accused the Irish of hypocrisy for winning a dubious penalty given for handball against Ucha Lobjanidze in their win over Georgia in February. He said: "It is the usual FAI reaction – 'we've been robbed', 'the honesty of the game' but there was one of the group matches [Georgia] when Ireland got a penalty for a handball and no one had appealed for it.

"It was one of the worst decisions I have ever seen and it changed the game and the group. Robbie Keane scored the penalty and Ireland went on to win but I don't remember the FAI saying 'You know what? The referee made a howler, let's give them a replay.' It is the same principle.

"It [Henry's handball to set up William Gallas's decisive goal] was instinct for Henry. Would I call him a cheat? No I wouldn't think so. Did he bend the rule a little? Maybe. You see cheating going on all the time. Nobody wants a cheat. I wouldn't agree that Henry is a cheat. He is a top, top player who took advantage of the situation.

"I don't feel the game has been damaged one bit. Ireland had the chances. They never took the chance in the first game. They never performed. I heard an interview after the first game when the manager said none of the players got booked – maybe that was the problem, maybe the players should have got booked because they stood off France. In the second game we had opportunities and didn't take them."

Keane saved his harshest words for Delaney who he accused of lying about not knowing of his own whereabouts in a press conference during the Saipan crisis seven years ago. "He talks about the honesty and integrity of the game but I would not take any notice of that man," Keane said. "People forget what went on in the World Cup in 2002 and that man talks about honesty. I have been involved with Ireland since I was 15 years but he didn't have the decency to even make a phone call – and he goes on about the honesty of the game."

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