Team morale is brilliant, there are no worries about that. The lads are the best bunch you will ever meet and they will get on with it.

31 May 2006

*Auto post no 2*

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[1] Nor did the team really live up to expectations.

And of course we have the FAI. Footballing Association of Ireland[2] 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[3]

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.” [4]

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[5] 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.


  1. and did he really force out a few older players before their time?
  2. FAI In Turmoil
  3. Okay, I’m on Roy’s side
  4. RTE Interview
  5. I’m only half joking

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14 Responses

  1. Keane might be a great player, but he's an out-and-out thug. That particularly vicious deliberately career-threatening tackle on Man. City's Alfie Haaland when he stood over him and taunted him says it all. McCarthy wasn't a great manager but at least he never set out to inflict deliberate injuries on other players

  2. Alan says:

    I'd have to agree with the last commenter. Roy Keane may have been a great footballer, but as a human being he is pretty much beyond contempt.

    The best comparison to the Saipan incident would be Will Carling's "57 Old Farts" scandal. The intent was the same, but the Carling's attack was focussed and directed against those responsible, as opposed to Keane's throwing all his toys out of the pram and blindly striking out at everyone around him. Result, the entire country got behind Carling, (even the Scots and Welsh for once) and the way Rugby Union was organised was changed forever for the better.

    Keane's outburst, meanwhile, achieved virtually nothing. The Irish FA is still run as a jolly boys club by a bunch of self-serving old feckers. They threw a few sops at the players for a while to deflect attention from themselves, but nothing has really changed.

  3. weenie says:

    Roy – as a player, he was complete. As a person, he was a complete numbskull.

    He should have put aside his disrespect for McCarthy and done his best for the team, given 100% during the tournament and then blamed McCarthy AFTERWARDS if things went tactically wrong. Really felt for the Irish when he walked out on them and it's such a big deal that it'll never be forgotten by some.

  4. Mal says:

    The ugliest aspect of the whole controversy were all the people saying, "We're sick of glorious failures, the whole point is to win."

    BOLLOCKS! That's Michael O Leary's Ireland. There's nothing admirable about professionalism. The Corinthian spirit is worth preserving and fighting for. As the English music-hall duo Flanders and Swann put it in "A Song of Patriotic Prejudice" (self-mockingly, I hasted to add, but I think they have a point):

    And, all the world over, each nation's the same;
    They've simply no notion of playing the game.
    They argue with umpires, they cheer when they've won
    And they practice beforehand, which ruins the fun.

    Roy Keane is a crass thug who deserves all the ignominy he came in for. People like him want to make players into automatons and take all the romance out of it. And he has his equivalents in every field of human endeavour; I suppose Louis Walsh is one. The rise of the machines.

  5. sally says:

    As an American, all this football talk confuses me!

    But, I will say GO IRELAND!

  6. kelly says:

    Fence, are you ever coming back to us?

    And Sally, you and I should have coffee together sometime. :o)

  7. Fence says:

    Kelly, guess what. Go on, guess. That's right :) I'm back.

    Sally, trouble is we've nowhere to go to.

    Mal I have to disagree. There is nothing worse than applauding moral victories that in reality were crushing defeats. But there does have to ba a balance between the desire to win and being sporting. And I think that Roy Keane's desire to win was too strong. It may have been what made him a great player, but it is also what made him a danger on the pitch.

    Weenie, I was just watching an interview with Jack Charlton on the telly last night, and he said that no other country would have forgiven Roy Keane but the Irish. And I think that in the majority of Irish people have forgiven him. Personally I think he was more in the right that the wrong. Yes he shouldn't have walked out on the team, but you have to stand up for your own principles. Blind loyalty is nothing to be proud of.

    Alan, I think that Roy was probably spoiling for a fight the moment he got to Saipan. McCarthy had organised it as R&R, not a training camp. That was the start of all the problems. Plus the fact that Roy didn't respect McCarthy as a manager.

    Northern Sole, welcome to the blog. I'm not too sure if I'd count Roy as a thug. Although some of his behaviour on the pitch was despicable. But there is also the fact that we'll never really know the true story. And, everyone makes mistakes.

  8. sally says:

    If I go down to the Sligo Pub a few blocks away screaming "Stay Ireland!", I'll just get the weirdest stares, no?

  9. Fence says:

    Probably. Though if you go there and shout Down with Down you might get a few smiles. Cause that's who Sligo are playing next time in the qualifiers, County Down. Course Sligo will probably be beaten.

  10. Eamonn says:

    My father was born and bred in Ireland, and though I'm a true blue aussie, I follow them as my second team. What Roy Keane did was to tell the truth as it were. Its the World Cup for God's sake, not a street tournament. Former international players supported him as they knew the amateurish conditions that the Irsih were continualy dealt. As captain he had already voiced his concerns to McCarthy (in private)but McCarthy waas the one who waved the red flag in front of a bull in a public forum. The professionalism has only improved since Keane's comments and though they didn't qualify for Germany, they are a better organisation for his input. Oh and support the Aussies in Germany! Go the socceroos!

  11. Mal says:

    Bred to a harder thing
    Than Triumph, turn away
    And like a laughing string
    Whereon mad fingers play
    Amid a place of stone,
    Be secret and exult,
    Because of all things known
    That is most difficult.

    Was it GB Shaw or Oscar Wilde who called the Irish the greatest failures in the world? And Nietzsche said that, the higher something is, the more likely it is to be a failure. Goddamit we should be proud. I worry about all this rugby triumph. It can only corrupt us, like the Celtic Tiger.

    There's nothing pretentious IN THE LEAST about this comment.

  12. Fence says:

    Eamonn, welcome to the blog. I never even thought of supporting the Aussies, but maybe I will.

    Don't worry Mal, we'll crash and burn as the All-Blacks defeat us on Sat (this is reverse-jinxing. Think it'll work?) and then Australia'll win. And the team'll come back as glorious losers.

    Haven't you heard, the Celtic Tiger is dead. We're simply living off its remains at the moment.

  13. Mal says:

    Or on its credit. But I think the corruption (pretentious restaurants, exotic holidays, interior decorating, all that jazz) has entered into our soul.

    God be with the days of broken biscuits in the fillums. Look behind you! The injuns! When working in information meant being a sandwich-board man. De Valera must be rolling in his grave.

  14. Fence says:

    Exotic holidays aren't corruption. Thinking you deserve one simply for breathing, that may be corruption.