O'Neill says sorry for 'queer' remark

LONDON • Martin O'Neill has apologised for making an "inappropriate" comment as the Ireland squad were given a big Euro 2016 send-off in Cork on Monday.

The manager, his staff and players attended an event at the city's Opera House last Wednesday which was not open to the media, although excerpts were later broadcast by the organiser, Today FM.

Reports have emerged that O'Neill joked he had taken the coaches Steve Guppy and Steve Walford along to the Super Bowl in the United States so people did not think he and his assistant, Roy Keane, were "queers".

O'Neill said on Monday: "If I had made inappropriate comments, then I obviously apologise. I will attempt during the rest of my time not to make such inappropriate comments."

The manager's attempts at humour can be quirky to say the least. He often apologises for the quality, rather than subject matter, of his off-the-cuff remarks during press conferences.

He landed himself in trouble earlier this year when he suggested "ugly" wives and girlfriends would not be allowed into the team hotel in France.

It proved an eventful trip to Cork, where Keane also made headlines with his withering assessment of the team's performance in their 2-1 defeat by Belarus on May 31.

The assistant manager said he wanted to "kill" some of the players, while winger Aiden McGeady came in for particular criticism for a poor display.

O'Neill revealed Keane had since spoken to McGeady. The manager said: "Roy's words were slightly on the strong side. Any pieces of criticism the players get from Roy or myself they take on board or dismiss it accordingly."

Meanwhile, Michael O'Neill has allayed concerns over the fitness of Kyle Lafferty after Northern Ireland's leading striker limped out of training with a groin problem.

The exit of the striker, who scored seven times in the qualifying campaign, was an unwelcome scare five days before the team's opener against Poland in Nice.

But, following an assessment by team doctor David White, the Northern Ireland manager insisted the 28-year-old had not suffered a serious problem.

"He's fine. We have no major concerns. It was a little twist (of the groin) but on examination we don't expect any issues at all," said O'Neill.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2016, with the headline 'O'Neill says sorry for 'queer' remark'. Print Edition | Subscribe