Friday 24 February 2017

Dion Fanning: Coy Roy the right man at the wrong time to offer thoughts on Fifa's FAI payment

Dion Fanning

Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane during a pitchside update today at Gannon Park, Malahide,
Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane during a pitchside update today at Gannon Park, Malahide,

There have been times during Roy Keane’s managerial career when many would have longed for Roy Keane the player who could get on the pitch and put things right.

During the Ireland assistant manager’s media appearance in Malahide on Friday, many journalists were longing for Roy Keane the manager.

Specifically the ideal man for the morning after the day when the FAI’s CEO John Delaney was in the news in connection with the FIFA scandal was Roy Keane the Ipswich manager who would compensate for the uneventful time he was having at the club by commenting on all matters in world football, most notably during the week after Paris in 2009 when Ireland felt aggrieved and Roy told the nation to “get over it”.

It turned out that the FAI had found some ways of getting over it, ways which confidentiality clauses prevented them from talking about until very recently.

They had eased the pain for themselves at least but in Malahide, this was a different Keane. You couldn’t say he was toeing the company line because nobody is really sure what the company line is. But Keane wasn’t interested in discussing FIFA or the FAI or any combination of the two that had been making headlines around the world.

“Do you know what? Not today. I’m not in the mood for all that stuff. Ask me about the games coming up and the players we have, no problem, but I’m not going into the FIFA stuff.”

We wanted Roy to do this 2009 riff again but these were different circumstances and Keane wasn’t interested in getting involved.

Read more: "Isn't John Delaney always a distraction?" Roy Keane jokes

He wasn’t in the mood to talk about the FAI’s role either but it didn’t seem that Keane was really not in the mood. Everyone knows when Roy is not in those moods, when the dark eyes linger on a questioner who might have crossed the line and the reporter stands silently waiting for some reprieve while tumbleweed rolls by and his colleagues desert him.

Roy wasn’t in the mood but he wasn’t in one of those moods so he happily refused to talk about the latest episode in the dysfunctional history of the FAI.

John Delaney has more questions to answer about the payment from FIFA but when Keane was asked if the CEO was becoming a distraction, he moved on to other matters with a dry response. “Isn’t he always?”

Delaney could probably live with that, especially when the world’s media were talking about the payment from FIFA and the headlines on Friday morning talked about the controversy using terms like ‘bung’ and ‘hush money’.

In that context, Delaney could probably handled a wry comment from the assistant manager of the Ireland team who, on previous occasions , and maybe on future occasions, would have had a lot more to say.

Read more: John Delaney: FIFA paid us off after Thierry Henry handball so we wouldn't take legal case

Instead Keane offered no encouragement to anybody who had arrived in Malahide hoping to advance the story.

There was time for some talk about the game against England, there were the obligatory injury updates and Roy spoke fondly about the previous talking point in Irish football, Jack Grealish. Grealish, "a good kid", and it was possible to feel nostalgic for a time when the non-footballing Irish story involved the simple story of one player’s agonising over which country he would play for. Keane said Grealish would love it with Ireland. “It will be great if he’s with us, if not we’ll get on with it.”

The players had been given a day off training following the game against Northern Ireland so the only others on the pitch were the goalkeepers who went through their routines, their endless drills while Roy focused on a game which is not the focus of attention.  It was quiet and peaceful out there and Keane wasn’t going to say anything to ruin the atmosphere.

Towards the end of his time with the electronic media, one final attempt was made to see if Roy’s mood had changed when he was asked if the players got annoyed by these stories. Players had more important things to worry about, he said, and their priorities would be on the game.

What about Jack Warner? He’s had his issues with him, calling Warner a ‘clown’ in 2008. Surely he’d be in the mood to talk about Jack Warner? “I’ve had issues with everybody. Again, if you want to talk about the game I’m here, if you want to talk about other stuff, you’re talking to the wrong man.”

Or maybe he was the right man but it was just the wrong time.

Read more: 'Disgraceful and unacceptable' – Former French manager calls on Irish players to demand compensation

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