SIR Alex Ferguson has described Roy Keane's appointment as assistant to Martin O'Neill as "terrific" and believes Ireland now have a real opportunity to qualify for Euro 2016.
The retired Manchester United manager was in diplomatic mood last night as he addressed an adoring crowd of more than 2,500 people at Dublin's Convention Centre.
Sir Alex said the decision to move Keane out of United in 2005 was the "toughest" one he had to make during his 27-year career at the club but maintained last night: "I can't say it was wrong."
Nevertheless, the Scot struck a conciliatory tone at the event, which was organised by Eason's to promote his autobiography.
Parts of the book were critical of how Keane behaved in the Corkman's last days at United. But Sir Alex was quick to emphasis his former captain's huge contribution to the club. Asked by host Eamonn Holmes about the new managerial set-up for Ireland, Ferguson said: "I think it's terrific."
He said it was "only in the last year" of Keane's time at United that the relationship between the two soured. "When you talk about the best United players, Roy is in there," Sir Alex said, though the only player that is "incomparable" was Keane's fellow Corkonian Denis Irwin.
Many well-known faces had come to see the great man, including Kilkenny hurling manager Brian Cody, Kerry footballer Paul Galvin and former TV3 newsreader Alan Cantwell.