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The other Civil War over Roy Keane at the 2002 World Cup still simmers two decades later

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The acrimony sparked by the decision of then Republic of Ireland manager, Mick McCarthy, to send team captain Roy Keane home following bitter exchanges at a team meeting spilled over in to Irish society and have caused many arguments since. Pictur Andrew Paton INPHO

The acrimony sparked by the decision of then Republic of Ireland manager, Mick McCarthy, to send team captain Roy Keane home following bitter exchanges at a team meeting spilled over in to Irish society and have caused many arguments since. Pictur Andrew Paton INPHO

The acrimony sparked by the decision of then Republic of Ireland manager, Mick McCarthy, to send team captain Roy Keane home following bitter exchanges at a team meeting spilled over in to Irish society and have caused many arguments since. Pictur Andrew Paton INPHO

corkman

BACK in 2002, I was working in Belfast and, in the run up to the World Cup, it became a difficult place for a Corkman to be residing.

This wasn’t because of old animosities due to partition, jibes about which were aimed in my direction on occasion only to be met by withering return fire.

The difficulties were created by Roy Keane and Mick McCarthy. Many will say that the Irish captain went home sulking and cost Ireland the World Cup (which we would have been, according to an RTÉ documentary screened on Monday, bound to win). At the time I would have said he was sent home by the Irish manager when tempers frayed during a team meeting. In other words, the fault lay at the feet of the Irish manager.

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There were many bitter exchanges in Belfast during those heady days, especially as Ireland, without Keane seemed to be doing well. We drew with Germany and beat Saudi Arabia and qualified to play Spain in the first knock out round. This game went to penalties.

And Ireland lost. Spain went on to lose to South Korea who were beaten in the semi-final. The theory goes we would have beaten Spain with Keane and easily despatched South Korea and, having drawn with Germany in the group, we would have their measure in the semi-final. And that would have left us facing Brazil in the final.

I don’t believe Ireland would have won the World Cup in 2002 with or without Keane. Not because I doubted our abilities but I felt we hadn’t done the preparation needed to be the best team in the world. Ireland’s rugby team has gone to World Cup as a rated squad on a number of occasions but has rarely shone.

Keane’s attitude is that he wasn’t going to the World Cup to make up the numbers and I respected that. But a run ending with him holding the World Cup aloft was a dream, not a realistic ambition.

Still there were some back in 2002 - and I’ve been involved in some arguments since, who harboured that vain hope.

It’s hard to believe two decades have passed since that Summer of Saipan but here we are and we haven’t reached the pinnacle of World football since. Our appearances in the Euros in 2012 and 2016 were not impressive and reasonable respectively. It doesn’t look like we will be going back to the World Cup soon.

But Keane and McCarthy did give us some great entertainment that Summer and have fuelled a simmering civil war since.

Both players served Ireland well on the pitch and on the sideline. They deserve our gratitude. It’s time to call a truce.


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