Following revelations surrounding payments from FIFA to the Football Association of Ireland (FAI), Roy Keane says focus in the Republic of Ireland camp must remain on Sunday’s friendly with England.
FAI chief executive John Delaney revealed on Thursday that the sport’s governing body paid it €5 million in a bid to prevent legal action surrounding the nation’s controversial absence from the 2010 World Cup.
Ireland missed out on qualification in a play-off defeat to France after Thierry Henry blatantly handballed in the build-up to William Gallas’ crucial winner.
FIFA – embroiled in controversy amid an on-going corruption scandal – insisted the payment was a loan for a stadium in Ireland, but the comments have nonetheless proven an unwanted distraction for Martin O’Neill’s men in the build-up to Sunday’s friendly in Dublin.
It will be the first time the nations have met on Irish soil since an abandoned friendly in February 1995 – called off after just 27 minutes due to crowd trouble – and Keane was in no mood to discuss off-field issues in the build-up.
“I’m not going into the FIFA stuff. I’m here to work with the players and focus on the games coming up. I’m not going there with that one,” he told reporters.
“The players have hardly spoken about it. I spoke briefly this morning [Friday] about it to the staff, but we are focused on the match and that is what I am here to talk about. The focus has to be on the match.
“I am here to work with the players. We have had a few nice days already, it’s crunch time coming up for us so that is the only focus for me.”
Like the Irish, England will return to Euro 2016 qualifying after Sunday’s friendly, with Roy Hodgson’s men in strong form – having not tasted defeat since the disastrous World Cup campaign last year.
After Harry Kane’s international emergence earlier this year, Hodgson could hand Jamie Vardy and Charlie Austin England debuts in a move that would represent another step on the pair’s meteoric rise in recent years.
Both have fought from non-League divisions to the Premier League, with Leicester City man Vardy saying: “It’s a massive opportunity, I never thought it would happen.
“I’ve just got to take it in my stride and show what I can do. The lads have made me feel really welcome, as well as the gaffer, and it’s an experience I’m never going to forget.
“When I was at Fleetwood [Town in the Conference] I wouldn’t have imagined I was signing for Leicester City either.
“I’ll be giving it my all, I want to show exactly what I can do and hopefully it’s enough to get brought into the squad next time as well.”
Ireland are hopeful Paul McShane will recover from a gashed leg while Fabian Delph is expected to be fit despite missing Thursday’s training.
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