O'Neill taken aback at Keane's hero status
Published 24/09/2015 | 02:30
It was like "John the Baptist paving the way for the Great Redeemer".
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill describes his assistant as world class, but was clearly taken aback at the scale of the reception as he accompanied Roy Keane on a visit to Cork.
His comments came amid a furore over the decision by Sir Alex Ferguson to omit Keane (43) from a list of world class stars he managed during his tenure at Manchester United.
The Scot, in his latest biography about leadership, blatantly ignored the Irish midfielder who he once credited with United's domination of the 1990s.
But Keane steadfastly refused to be drawn into the controversy.
Attending the opening of a new pain management suite at Marymount Hospice in Cork, the star refused all comment.
"Not today lads, thanks," he repeatedly said.
But Martin O'Neill was fulsome in his tribute to the Cork midfielder.
"I actually feel a bit of an intruder here today because I have arrived down here in Cork which, as we all know, belongs to Mr Keane.
"It is very special to be here with Roy."
He described his Number Two as "quite brilliant".
And there was more divine intervention to come.
Sr Augustine, a Sister of Mercy nun who is in her late 80s, left Keane speechless by giving him a hug in front of the assembled dignitaries.
She described the Mayfield-born star as "our hero".
Both Keane and O'Neill paid glowing tribute to the work of Marymount Hospice.
The Irish manager said the pain management unit reflected "the real world".
"I have a bit of personal experience of these things. I have been in and out of hospitals for a while and I have seen the great work being done.
"When my wife (Geraldine) was recovering from cancer herself, the treatment by the nurses and doctors was just fantastic," O'Neill said.
Both took time to chat to Paul Whitmarsh, a former West Ham star, whose wife, Josephine, a mother of three, is battling cancer.