Martin O’Neill believes Roy Keane was wrong to miss 2002 World Cup

New Ireland boss says assistant missed out on a great opportunity

 Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill speaks during a press conference at the Gibson Hotel. Photograph: Patrick Bolger/Getty Images

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill speaks during a press conference at the Gibson Hotel. Photograph: Patrick Bolger/Getty Images


New Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill believes his assistant Roy Keane was wrong to give up the opportunity of playing at the 2002 World Cup.

The former Celtic manager was responding to questions over the incidents in Saipan ahead of the tournament in Japan and South Korea that ended with Mick McCarthy sending home the midfielder after he had complained about the quality of training facilities on the island.

“If you’re going back to Saipan, way back in that time, I would have to say that my own view at that time, is that I would have disagreed with Roy,” O’Neill said at Saturday’s press conference at the Gibson Hotel in Dublin.

“I would have felt that, having qualified for the World Cup, it doesn’t come around too often, for some great players it has never come at all, and here was this opportunity. He was the captain of the side.

“I thought that would have been, regardless of what Roy would have felt about it before, this was a chance to participate in a World Cup and for a great player, even more so, from that viewpoint. So I would have had a disagreement with that.”

O’Neill went on to say that he had told Keane of his opinion and that the former Manchester United player responded by questioning O’Neill’s team selection for the 2003 Uefa Cup final, a match Celtic lost to Porto in Seville.

“I think I mentioned that to him and he retorted by saying he disagreed with my team selection in the 2003 Uefa Cup final. Unbelievable. Unbelievable. He said he would have probably won it. So, yeah, we’re going to have the occasional debacle.”

Keane is set to face the media for the first time as assistant manager on Wednesday.

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