Keane doubts soccer can heal Manchester’s pain

Ireland's assistant manager confirms James McClean keen to play Mexico

Roy Keane: “I know it has been quoted over the years that football is more important that life and death. That’s ridiculous.” Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Roy Keane: “I know it has been quoted over the years that football is more important that life and death. That’s ridiculous.” Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

 

Though he shares the general sense of dismay over the attack in Manchester this week that left 22 innocent victims dead and many more with terrible injuries, Roy Keane says that he remains sceptical about the supposed healing powers of football in the wake of his former club’s Europa League success in Stockholm.

Manchester United’s game against Ajax and the 2-0 victory they secured has been widely portrayed as an occasion for the stricken city’s people to unite around and take comfort from.

But Keane admits it would provide little consolation to him if he had been more directly affected by the terrible events of Monday evening and he doubts how much of a difference football can make in the face of tragedy on this scale.

“Shocking, the same as everybody else,” said the Republic of Ireland’s assistant manager when asked what he thought of it all. “When it happens on your doorstep it seems to hit home a bit more.

“Shocking, but it’s the planet we live on. People try to walk in and injure innocent people. Children. Shocking.

“The reaction has been nice but it’s not going to bring the people back who have been killed or badly injured. I am not surprised by the reaction of the city in the last few days.  Manchester is a good city and there are lots of good cities out there and obviously people will come together. Manchester has had its ups and downs like everything else.

“It kind of tells you how unimportant football is in a sense,” he continued.

“I know it has been quoted over the years that football is more important that life and death. That’s ridiculous, you know, when you see people being targeted like that. No, I don’t get carried away that football can help any situations like that. When is a game of football going to benefit the people who died, people who lost people and families?”

Keane, who has spent more than two decades in and around Manchester, said he doubted too whether the attack and its aftermath had had any impact on the ability of the Manchester United players to focus on the game in Stockholm or that the game itself could provide, in any positive way, a general sense that life must go on. That, he suggested, however, is the reality of the situation.  

A surprise

“When there is a game, unfortunately you just have to get on with life; you have to get on with these things,” he said.

 “Thinking that a sporting occasion or winning a trophy will at some stage help people who have been killed or lost people... that would not work for me, I know that. But you have to get on with normality, which is shocking really after the scenes. All you can do is to send your thoughts to the people who have been suffering.”

 Keane was speaking at Fota Island after Ireland’s training squad had completed the third and final session of the week. The 17 players involved will now, he suggested, be joined by James McClean, Darren Randolph and Colin Doyle on the trip to New Jersey where Ireland are due to play Mexico next Thursday night.

  McClean’s inclusion comes as something of a surprise with most of the more experienced players who are at Premier League clubs only expected to get involved for the Uruguay and Austria games but the Derryman had, Keane said, expressed a firm desire to come in early.

 “I think James has been in touch with the manager and he’s keen to get involved,” he said. “James has not played loads of games over the last month or two and some lads would say: ‘I want to get over and get a few minutes under my belt’. James obviously seems to love being involved and he feels there’s a benefit to him in going to America. He’s keen to travel.”

  James McCarthy, he confirmed, however, is out of all three games with Martin O’Neill having apparently agreed with the midfielder that he is not even in a position to come over and continue his rehabilitation from injury in Dublin before taking stock of the situation in the run up to the World Cup qualifier against Austria.

  “He hasn’t played any minutes and I think it’s been agreed between the club and Martin that he’s not going to be considered,” said the Corkman. “Obviously, Martin spoke to him and said, ‘listen, it’s best leaving it’ because of the fact that he’s not played much football and he’s still not fully fit. So James won’t be involved.”

  The Ireland squad is now due to reassemble in Dublin on Sunday evening prior to Monday afternoon’s departure for America.

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