Martin O’Neill has lifted the lid on what was said between himself and Roy Keane as they embraced upon the final whistle as the Republic of Ireland made it through to the Euro 2016 knock-out stage.
The manager and his assistant were all smiles as they hugged on the touchline at the Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille on Wednesday night after Robbie Brady had headed his side to the last 16 with a 1-0 win over Italy.
Asked what he had said to Keane, O’Neill replied: “I told him to shave his beard. It was rustling my chin and I don’t want him to hug me again ever.”
Questioned about the 44-year-old former Manchester United and Ireland skipper’s response, O’Neill added: “He said, ‘You are an ugly sod’, and I agreed wholeheartedly. I then retorted and said he wasn’t Paul Newman either.”
Whatever was actually said between the two men, who agreed to lead the Republic into the new World Cup qualifying campaign before flying out to France earlier this month, may have to remain between them for now.
However, there were words of congratulation from veteran Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who was one of those rested on the night after recovering from a bout of flu.
O’Neill revealed: “He was very complimentary, which was nice considering he’s been one of the great goalkeepers of all time.”
Brady’s goal sparked wild celebrations on and off the pitch as the thousands of Ireland fans who had made it into the stadium threatened to lift the closed roof.
It was an occasion which will live long in the memory for those who were there, and O’Neill was delighted to have given the supporters something to cheer after the disappointment of a 3-0 defeat by Belgium in their previous game.
He said: “We were delighted to win the game and be part of that evening and it was genuinely special. We felt that we were part of that evening, one not to be forgotten.
“To see the fans enjoy it, it more than made up for the Belgium game. Last night, players and fans together fused in a way that they kept each other going.”