Sport Soccer

Monday 19 February 2018

Mick McCarthy's silence on Roy Keane speaks volumes

Garry Doyle

Mick McCarthy yesterday contrived to blank six separate questions about Roy Keane's return to the Irish international scene.

Proving once again that hell hath no fury like a manager scorned, McCarthy's silence spoke considerably louder than words as he repeatedly refused to be drawn on the subject of Keane's appointment as Martin O'Neill's No 2.

If McCarthy feels slighted, he has good reason to be. He was a real contender for this Ireland job, but belatedly discovered he was nothing more than a back-up plan as O'Neill spent six weeks deliberating over the offer.

While losing out to a friend and a man he respects was acceptable, seeing Keane – his enemy of old – return to the international set-up has reopened old wounds, and the Yorkshireman made little effort to hide the scars.

"I told you six weeks ago what was going to happen," said McCarthy, "that it was Martin's job to turn down. It was always his gig. I said he was a shoo-in and that has proven to be the case."

Then the Keane questions arrived and were met by lengthy silences and thousand-yard stares, interrupted only when one inquisitor informed McCarthy that he and Keane fell out in 2002.

"Really, did that happen when I was asleep or something?" asked McCarthy. "I was in the hot seat and I loved it. I had a great time. We went from 59th to 13th in the world – lost out in the last 16 of the 2002 World Cup on penalties. I was successful."

The question of whether Keane will prove as successful working as O'Neill's assistant is almost as divisive as whether he was right or wrong to act the way he did in Saipan all those years ago.

For many, doubts remain about his ability to lead from the sideline with the same effect that he managed on the pitch as captain of his club and country.

Yet two players whom he controversially axed from Ipswich, David Wright and Liam Trotter, surprisingly spoke favourably about his appointment yesterday.

"Did it surprise me that Roy has taken on a No 2 role?" asked Wright. "Yes, it did, but it could be a very good combination between him and O'Neill.

"I'm sure he'll become a better manager after working with someone as experienced as O'Neill in the long term.

"You can say what you want about Roy, but one thing I took from him was his professionalism.

"Everything he did he demanded the highest standards, whether it was hotels we stayed in, the way we travelled or the quality of the training – he wanted to get the preparations perfect so players could have no excuses come match day."

Trotter, meanwhile, was singing a similarly positive tune.

"I personally had no problems with Roy," said the Millwall player who was released by Keane in 2010.

"I wouldn't say he was fearsome, but he certainly has an aura about him. He's very honest, frank and open with his players and I always found him fair.

"Will it work, him being a No 2? I don't see why not.

"Martin O'Neill wouldn't have taken him on otherwise and while it's going to be slightly different for him to step down into an assistant role, that could benefit him in the long run."

Irish Independent

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