Forgive them, pleads captain

 

Roy Keane yesterday offered support to his dismissed Republic of Ireland teammates Mark Kennedy and Phil Babb, maintaining that their brush with the law should not adversely affect their international careers.

Kennedy and Babb appeared in court on Tuesday charged with causing criminal damage to a car, a breach of the peace and being drunk and disorderly. They were banished from the squad for Saturday's World Cup qualifier against the Netherlands.

Keane, the Republic of Ireland captain, said that it behoved people to keep things in perspective. "I'm not going to sit here and try to defend them for what they did, but on the other hand everybody makes mistakes, me more than anybody. They haven't murdered anybody, raped anybody or sold drugs. I hope people remember that.

"As I said, I've made plenty of mistakes and I know how they were feeling yesterday, I really do. What happened was just silly but it shouldn't affect their careers with Ireland. Nobody was hurt, it was just a prank, end of story."

Team manager Mick McCarthy has said that he will wait until he returns from Amsterdam on Sunday before meeting with FAI officials to discuss what further action, if any, should be taken against the players.

He said that Tuesday's events had not impinged on the squad's preparations for the World Cup game.

"The players were as upbeat as ever in training today - their only focus was on winning on Saturday. Personally, I felt a lot better today than I did on Tuesday and the players, too, are relieved to be back to basics again."

He said it had been a very difficult time for everybody, but they still had a number of days to devote themselves exclusively to "the job of beating the Dutch".

Both Kennedy and Babb left the squad on Tuesday evening, the former to catch a plane to Manchester, Babb en route to Portugal where he is still waiting to make his championship debut for Sporting Lisbon.

Kennedy received the support of his club, Manchester City, although there was disappointment at the winger's conduct. Club chairman David Bernstein said in a statement: "As a club that prides itself on its unity and loyalty, we will always be supportive of our players and staff.

"However, if the allegations against Mark Kennedy are substantiated, the club would be very disappointed at his behaviour which would have let down his country, Manchester City and not least the player himself."

Kennedy's next match for City is expected to be at Leeds next Tuesday. City have not yet said whether they will take any disciplinary action themselves.