Roy Keane on Saipan: ‘I would do it again tomorrow’

Former Ireland captain told ITV’s World Cup podcast that he feels he let people off lightly

Roy Keane throws a bottle of water away while talking with goalkeeper coach Packie Bonner during training ahead of the 2002 World Cup. Photo: Andrew Paton/Inpho

Roy Keane throws a bottle of water away while talking with goalkeeper coach Packie Bonner during training ahead of the 2002 World Cup. Photo: Andrew Paton/Inpho

 

It’s 16 years after the event but still Roy Keane has not mellowed one bit on his row with Mick McCarthy which saw him quit the Ireland squad shortly before the 2002 World Cup.

Keane famously stormed out of Ireland’s training base in Saipan due to poor facilities, a lack of training equipment and being accused of feigning injury, sparking one of the biggest stories in Irish sporting history and one which brought the country to near-standstill, divided families and even led to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern offering to step in as a mediator.

Keane is now a pundit for ITV at this year’s World Cup and last week he spoke on their podcast about how he doesn’t regret any of his actions and, if anything, feels he let people off lightly.

The Ireland assistant manager said: “I was disappointed it happened, the way in panned out. I know there are two sides to every story. There was a lot of talk when we got over there about the facilities. That was well documented. I was disappointed at no bibs, balls, cones and it really irritated me because if it happened to Brazil or Germany there would have been uproar.

“But for some reason, because it was Ireland, it was like a laugh and a joke. I had enough years of laughing and joking. I felt at the time we had to give ourselves the best opportunity.

“Later on into the week, the night before we were due to leave Saipan, there was a bit of a team meeting, I was confronted by the manager and I stood up and had to fight my corner. I would do it again tomorrow.

“I’ve always said I’ve never lost a wink of sleep over how I reacted to the accusations that were made against me. I’d love to have played in another World Cup, of course I would have, that’s what the game is all about. But it wasn’t to be. I look back and don’t regret any of my actions. That’s the way it goes.”

For Keane the final straw was the accusation that he faked injury in order to miss a previous Ireland game. He had previously rowed back on a decision to quit the camp over the poor facilities but, as he told ‘The Irish Times’ in an exclusive interview before he did leave the squad for good, it was the question of his fitness which really did the damage.

“What made me angry and disappointed is when you get accused of something by your manager in front of a group of players, you’re going to react. I reacted. As a senior player and captain, I felt they were lies. I was accused of faking an injury and not being available for a match when I was injured.

“It was a really strange time to bring it up and it wasn’t true. If you make those kind of accusations against me, have a guess what is going to happen. Like a lot of players, I played far too many games when I was injured.

“To have that thrown at me was really strange. The timing of it and in front of a group of players...let me tell you, you are going to get fireworks. I would expect that from any player, particular a senior player. There you go.

“To be accused of missing a game because of an injury I supposedly didn’t have, believe it or not I let people off lightly. There could have been a lot more trouble shall we say.”

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