Thursday 22 February 2018

Mick McCarthy has no regrets about calling infamous Saipan meeting

Former Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy pictured at a press conference to announce details of the 23 man squad to go to the 2002 World Cup, Holiday Inn, Dublin Airport. Soccer. Picture credit; David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Former Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy pictured at a press conference to announce details of the 23 man squad to go to the 2002 World Cup, Holiday Inn, Dublin Airport. Soccer. Picture credit; David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Jack O'Toole

Former Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy has revealed that he has no regrets about calling the meeting that ultimately led to Roy Keane's walkout at the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Japan & South Korea.

Keane had given an interview to Tom Humphries of the The Irish Times and discussed why he had decided to leave the team following a training ground row.

The interview covered a range of topics including the state of facilities, and Ireland's goalkeepers not participating in an end of training five-a-side game, with McCarthy taking exception to the article upon publication.

The current Ipswich Town manager called a squad meeting to address the article, which led to the infamous 'Saipan Incident', which saw Keane unleash a verbal tirade towards McCarthy before he was then sent home from the tournament by the former Ireland boss.

15 years on from the incident, and McCarthy says that he has no regrets about calling the squad meeting and that it was inevitable that him and Keane would clash at some stage during his tenure as national team boss.

"If you give me 15 years to think about what might happen, I think it still would have happened," McCarthy told Second Captains' Richie Sadlier on the podcast's The Player's Chair segment.

"Maybe the two people involved would still be the same but no I don't regret it, not at all. That was the crux of the matter, people judging my management.

"Maybe they should walk in my shoes a little bit at the time and see. They have no idea, and I don't regret that either - the meeting - no not at all.

"That was needed and what came out of it was what came out of it. But as far as I'm concerned the dog wags the tail, not the tail that wagged the dog.

"I'm doing it as I see fit and one major explosion of an incident doesn't, in my view, determine what I achieved with Ireland, and even then we had a great World Cup."

McCarthy also said that the fallout from the 2002 FIFA World Cup ultimately influenced his decision to resign from his role as Ireland manager in November 2002.

The 58-year-old said that the players had requested not to speak to the media during the period, such was the focus on Keane's international exile, and that he knew his time was up as Ireland manager midway through the Euro 2004 qualifier with Switzerland.

"I decided in the Switzerland game," McCarthy said of his decision to resign.

"I had my reservations after the World Cup actually, but we had unbelievable support, it was great. We had got such a good, young vibrant team that were all buzzing and wanted to go forward.

"But I just knew [what happened] between myself and Roy was always going to crop up, I said it at the time. Not necessarily between myself and Roy personally, but every question was going to be still directed at that.

"I remember being in the hotel prior to the Switzerland game, and every press conference had still been about that, but I had to call a meeting and I said 'look lads, you're going to have to get on with this', they wanted to stop talking to the press.

"I said 'it's just there lads, you're going to have to get on with it, it's part of the gig and you can't stop talking to the press or the TV, you've just got to answer the questions.'

"But it quite clearly was having an effect, not so much on me, it was having an effect on the team. And then when we went 1-0 down [against Switzerland] I thought win this game and we're off.

"We equalised, and I changed the team, I wanted to win it, I was going to resign, and then of course somebody [Fabio Celestini] sticks it in from 25 yards and we lost, so I thought it's time to go anyway."

McCarthy resigned from his role as manager three weeks later.

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