Night out Fuels Fighting Irish

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Byline: COLIN YOUNG

THERE is nothing like a row to distract the Republic of Ireland ahead of a crucial World Cup game and, according to Brian Kerr, he has had nothing like a row.

In the build-up to tomorrow's crucial qualifier with France at Lansdowne Road, the Ireland coach has reacted furiously to allegations of a bust-up with Roy Keane in the wake of weekend newspaper reports which showed several members of the squad partying in Dublin city centre.

Keane, who is now teetotal, is alleged to have contacted Kerr before the weekend and warned him over the wisdom of gathering his players in Dublin a week before the clash, fearing boredom would tempt the younger ones into the city bars and clubs.

Robbie Keane, Gary Doherty, Nick Colgan and Paddy Kenny were among players pictured outside a nightclub on Friday night. Tottenham striker Robbie Keane spent the previous night singing karaoke at a pub where he also gave a rousing speech to fans.

Roy Keane infamously fell out with Kerr's predecessor Mick McCarthy on the eve of the 2002 World Cup, resulting in his departure from the squad which lost on penalties to Spain in South Korea.

Kerr defended his decision to give his players a night off. He said: 'There was no curfew and I have no problem whatsoever with any players who chose to go out. I don't know who did what because I was out myself.' But Kerr denied claims of a repeat disagreement and insisted Roy Keane and the rest of his fully-fit squad are focused on gaining a victory over the French which would leave them well placed to reach Germany next year.

He insisted: 'There is absolutely no truth in this story. It is completely and utterly ridiculous and laughable. I have a very good relationship with Roy and the rest of the players. I have spoken with Roy about

this and I won't tell you the words he used because they are not family reading.' Keane may take the opportunity to give his views today. The former Ireland skipper was expected to attend only his second Press conference since returning to the squad a year ago, although he was understood to be considering his options following these latest allegations. …