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Saipan was just a dot in the ocean before Roy Keane's exit made it the story of the 2002 world Cup

KNOCK on the door and it swings open. Relaxed, smiling and surrounded by the sound of Bob Dylan's Rainy Day Women #12 & 35, Keano cocks an eyebrow and says: "What dyis want?"

Only a handful remained in Saipan after Mick McCarthy and his squad took off for Izumo and the official start of Ireland's World Cup 2002 preparations.

A few camera crews, a few hacks and a few photographers hung around the sub-tropically leafy foyer straining for a glimpse, a shot or a word.

But not us. A handful of intrepid scribblers took a chance and a lift and ended up at the end of Keane's corridor. All that stood in the way was a small security man with an Uzi.

Our job was to get to Roy before he went home and if necessary, follow him until he reached where ever it was he was headed for.

A mere Uzi wasn't going to stop us and after swift negotiations, we were through and at his door.

We looked him in the eye: "Any chance?"

"No problem lads. Let me get packed and I'll meet you downstairs."

The whole world wanted to know what Keane thought and in a matter of moments, we would have it.

Never happened. We loitered with intent and could only watch slack-jawed while the hotel manager bundled Keane, shrugging his shoulders in our direction and laughing, out of the hotel and into a waiting SUV.


There then commenced the slowest car chase in history with everyone restricted to the legal limit of 30mph while Keane's VIP status allowed him to race ahead to the airport at 31mph.

Never mind. The only flight out of there was to Okinawa so it seemed like an easy tail.

But nothing is ever easy when Keano's involved and minutes into the flight, we realised he had given us the slip. He had found another way out of Saipan.

Our story was gone, our captain was gone and in that moment, as we circled over a tiny dot in the Pacific Ocean, all hope was gone too.