ROY Keane received a hero's welcome back to his old stomping ground in the Cork harbour town of Cobh.
Keane (43) agreed to manage a Cobh Ramblers 'old boys' side in a once-off charity challenge match against a Springfield FC XI.
But Ireland's assistant manager remained tight-lipped about whether he might return full-time to the Premiership hot-seat at Aston Villa.
The midfielder has managed Sunderland and Ipswich Town and was assistant to Paul Lambert earlier this season at the giant Birmingham club.
He is now amongst the bookies' favourites to take over at Villa Park.
All funds from the Cobh charity match last night went to the local community hospital which caters for geriatric patients.
It was an emotional return for the Mayfield-born star who was first spotted by English football scouts as he starred for Cobh Ramblers in the 1989/90 season.
Keane made a total of 23 appearances for the Ramblers and scored one goal before being snatched by Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest.
Just three years later, Alex Ferguson and Manchester United would spend stg£3.75m for Keane's signature.
Among the guest players last night were Patsy Freyne, Mick Devine, Fergus McDaid, Pat Keane, Pat Maher, Paul Keating, Mossie Mahony and Michael Ireland.
Players on both sides admitted it was "absolutely unreal" to participate in a match in which Roy Keane was patrolling the sideline.
"It is a bit overwhelming to have Keano on the sideline but it is also a huge motivating factor - you want to do well for him because he is a legend in the game," one player said.
Keane, who is based in Woodbridge in the UK, maintains close links with Cork where his parents, Mossie and Marie, still live - as do his siblings.