Republic of Ireland boss Martin O’Neill has delivered a scathing response to Everton counterpart Ronald Koeman over his treatment of James McCarthy.
On Friday, the Dutchman accused O’Neill of “not protecting” the midfielder, who was withdrawn from the starting line-up for last Friday’s World Cup qualifier against Wales at the last minute after aggravating a hamstring injury in the warm-up.
In a statement, O’Neill said: “Once again the Everton manager, master tactician of the blame game, has struck out in his comments today, criticising both myself and James McCarthy.
“Perhaps a review of Everton’s pre-season programme might provide some enlightenment.
“James had a magnificent tournament for the Republic of Ireland last summer during UEFA EURO 2016, playing his last game in very late June.
“He then returned to Everton after a very short break, but only 11 days later, he played his first of three games, all within an eight-day period, against Real Betis, Manchester United and Espanyol. Overloading?”
O’Neill added: “It should be added that James last played for his country on the October 9, 2016 – almost half a year ago. Since that time he has been totally under Everton’s supervision.
“James is diligent and conscientious in his professional preparation.
“Perhaps, in this instance, quiet introspection may serve the Everton manager and his medical staff better.”
The two managers have found themselves engaged in a festering battle in recent months over McCarthy’s involvement at international level after injuries have severely limited his involvement at club level.
However, O’Neill has always insisted he has never selected the player unless he was convinced he was fit and able to play.
McCarthy had trained for two days before his selection for the Wales game and O’Neill only decided to play him after taking advice from the Republic’s medical staff and seeking assurances from the player.
He was withdrawn after it became clear he could not start the game, in which club-mate Seamus Coleman suffered a double leg fracture which is likely to sideline him for the remainder of Ireland’s qualifying campaign.