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The World Cup is almost here. Football is going to dominate all the newspapers and tv coverage. The whole world will go football crazy. Well, parts of it will.
We didn’t qualify. So instead of looking at our prospects I’m going to look back at “The Saipan Incident” of 2002. Because it still causes arguments you know. Who’d believe that a footballer could do almost as much damage as a civil war?
A bit of background; First we have Roy Keane. Footballing god, not for his talent because there are others with more natural ability. but for his sheer determination and desire to win. Alternatively we have Roy Keane, footballing thug and person to avoid. A man who’d want to win at any cost.
And then there is Mick McCarthy. Manager of the Irish team during this time. A previous Captain Fantastic in his own right, Mick never escaped the shadow of previous manager Jack Charlton Nor did the team really live up to expectations.
And of course we have the FAI. Footballing Association of Ireland The people responsible for the administration of the sport in Ireland. They had clashed with the players before, over issues such as seating arrangements on planes, and the condition of training facilities.
Let us also state that Roy Keane, captain of the Irish team had never really gotten on with Mick McCarthy.
Now the stage is set.
Whatever exactly happened in Saipan doesn’t really matter. like all these “defining moments” it is all down to interpretations of the events, because we’ll never know the truth. Emotion played too large a role.
Did Roy Keane question Mick’s Irishness? Did he call him an English cunt? He denies it. No one has ever come out straight and said it, but the whispers are there.
Did Mick McCarthy insult Roy by insinuating that he used his injuries as excuses not to play friendlies?
Whatever happened the result was all that matters. Roy Keane walked out on his team. On his country. That’s what some people say, but they won’t then go on to say that he changed his mind. That he agreed to stay, until another bust-up had him sent home. Sent, not walked out on
And all across the world Irish football came under the spotlight. Most British journalists rushed to condemn Roy. To show the world that this thug couldn’t even be loyal to his own country.
Others were more balanced, giving reasons and excuses.
Some blamed Mick McCarthy. Other blamed Roy. I’m sure sales of newspapers sky rocketed as everyone back home wanted to know what was going on. Not only sports journalists were involved, but we were treated to an extended interview with Roy Keane on the telly, as he was asked “would he not go back, for the children Roy. For the children.” 
He didn’t. He wouldn’t play again for Ireland under the management of Mick McCarthy.
And all across the country people took up sides in the Roy Keane war. Families and friends divided. Nothing had divided the country like it since the actual Civil War and we all know how that ended for one famous Corkman.
Personally, I think that both Roy and Mick were in the wrong. But it was really the fault of the FAI. Mismanagement how are ye.
Roy had his principles, and I don’t think that anyone can be asked to be blindly loyal to anything, person or country, and go against their own beliefs. That is where loyalty turns into stupidity. But there is also the fact that his temper got the better of him.
Perhaps when Keane had got his concerns off his chest in this newspaper there was no need to have it out with him in front of the other players. Keane has a tripwire temper and a hard streak of meanness in him, a trait which makes him the player and competitor he is, but which also means that any reaction from him was likely to have been of such vehemence that it left no exits open apart from his own
But back home you had to take a side, in this war between the old “sure aren’t we lucky to be here” attitude and the now, more professional, more demanding attitude of Roy Keane. Both sides have their good points. The desire to win at all costs is not a good thing. But neither is it right to just show up and hope for the best. You have to prepare, you have to work.
And despite the fact that after Mick McCarthy was replaced by Brian Kerr, and that Roy came back to play for Ireland the controversy still lingers. Roy Keane’s recent testimonial showed how many people love and admire him as a footballer, but his reputation is forever tarnished because he was the man who walked out on his team. And letters to various papers int he aftermath of his testimonial showed that there were many who were very willing to bring that up again. Almost four years on, the arguments may have died down but they haven’t gone away.