The 20th anniversary of Saipan is approaching. For seven days in May 2002, the country was captivated by an extraordinary row between Ireland manager Mick McCarthy and Ireland captain Roy Keane on a small island in the Pacific Ocean, on the eve of the World Cup.
The fall-out of that controversy still reverberates to this day. But before Saipan, there was a qualifying campaign which pitted Ireland in a group with Portugal and Netherlands.
In October and November of 2001, the Sunday Independent ran a series by Paul Kimmage called ‘The Team That Mick Built’, which tells the story of how Mick McCarthy’s side famously beat a star-studded Holland team managed by Louis van Gaal to all but secure a place in the World Cup play-offs.
Over the coming days, as we build up to the Saipan anniversary, Independent.ie will re-run The Team That Mick Built in three parts. It is one of the greatest works in Irish sportswriting history. Enjoy.
- John Greene, Sunday Independent Sports Editor
Three o’clock at Lansdowne Road. The moment had arrived. From the kick-off, the Dutch moved the ball back to Edwin van der Sar who took a touch before pumping it forward towards the centre circle. As it dropped for Marc Overmars, the winger was felled by a crunching tackle from behind. There was 38 seconds on the clock. The enforcer was Roy Keane.
A free kick. The ball was played to the wing where Boudewijn Zenden was obstructed by a strong challenge by Ian Harte. Patrick Kluivert immediately retaliated with a kick on Kevin Kilbane. The game was less than a minute old but the tone had been set.
Mick Byrne: "The first tackle Roy made. I knew, I knew, this was our day."
Mick McCarthy: "Yeah, I think it probably was a statement, but he would be like that anyway, that's the way he plays."
Jason McAteer: "The tackles were flying in ... Van Nistelrooy had a go at Hartey."
Steve Staunton: "Overmars got a wallop, Van Nistelrooy got a wallop — not a wallop in the sense that he was taken out, but a hard physical challenge."
Kevin Kilbane: "I was tackled by Kluivert and he lost it a bit. There was a bit of a brawl but l just smiled and walked away. I think they realised then they were in a game.”
Steve Staunton: "You could see they were rattled. 'This isn't supposed to happen. We're supposed to be allowed pass the ball and move.' Every time the boy, Van Bommel, tried to turn there was someone rattin around his feet."
Ian Harte: "We got stuck into them."
No question, but within less than a minute it was Ireland who were feeling the strain.
Gary Kelly: "My biggest strength at right back is my pace. Make bad decisions and your pace will always get you out of trouble. When you are playing someone quicker than you, you have to be on your game."
But what do you do when your game has been blunted by a prolonged spell on the substitutes' bench? How do you defend against the quickest winger in the game? As the match entered its third minute, Kelly headed the ball down on the halfway line and was chasing it back towards his goal when he came under pressure from Overmars and was dispossessed by Kluivert.
Gary Kelly: "I was caught in two minds, whether to go back to Shay or to come inside. I tried to play it across the line and it was just cut out. After that, everything seemed to be in slow motion. Kluivert picked it up, I was coming back, everyone was chasing.”
Shay Given: "Kluivert was coming through. It's one-on-one so I'm just trying to come out and close the angle. He hit it to my left, I've dived to try and get it but it's gone wide of my hand. I looked at it going towards the post. I could see it all the way. It was only a matter of a couple of inches."
Gary Kelly: "It never went in. For some reason it just hopped outside Shay's left-hand post. I don't know how it didn't go in. I've thought about it a few times since. It must have been my sister, above."
Mick Byrne: "I bring my rosary beads with me. Every five or ten minutes I put my hand in my pocket. I call on everyone to help us.”
Mick McCarthy: "They should have scored."
Kevin Kilbane: “We knew we'd been let off the hook. Nine times out of ten he'd have hit the back of the net. It was a lucky break and we had to capitalise on it."
But the nervy start continued. Shay Given was tested early with a shot from Van Bommel. Zenden nipped between Staunton and Dunne but failed to finish. Up front, Robbie Keane and Damien Duff were struggling with the surface (Keane: "It was difficult. The grass was quite sticky. The ball was catching under your feet.") and the Dutch centre-halves, forcing them to drop deep. And it wasn't until after the 24th minute, when Arthur Numan was momentarily sidelined after a clash with Jason McAteer, that Ireland settled and began creating chances. And the last 15 minutes before the interval were easily Ireland's best.
The only blight was a 37th minute booking for Gary Kelly, for a challenge on the ever-troublesome Overmars. "It was always going to be difficult for our two full-backs," says McCarthy. "We wanted Jason and Kevin to tuck in and play narrow, so that was always going to leave them a bit exposed. We're talking about Overmars and Zenden, two of the best wingers in the world. And yeah, they got past, a couple of times, but I thought the boys were handling it well."
The second half began as positively for Ireland as it had ended. Roy Keane went close with a header. Ian Harte forced a save from Van der Sar from a free. In the 55th minute it was the Dutch manager, Louis Van Gaal, who was forced to make the first tactical switch — Hasselbaink replacing Zenden on the wing.
The Dutchman had hardly caught a breath when he was reunited with a former colleague at Leeds.
"I got tight," Harte explains. "He started swinging his elbows and I ended up ripping his jersey." And conceding a free.
The game was 57 minutes and 30 seconds old and about to reach the first of its three major turning points. From the free, the ball was played across the park to Numan and then short to Overmars who was chopped from behind by Gary Kelly, leaving the referee with no option.
Steve Staunton: "Oh no."
Jason McAteer: "Shit creek."
Johnny Fallon: "Despair."
Mick Byrne: "I nearly died. Don't do this on us, ref. You can't do this."
Steve Staunton: "Tackle from behind. He has to go."
Gary Kelly: "I never actually thought about getting sent off. When I got the first booking, I never thought of getting another. It's not in my nature to go in and lash someone from behind. But if you are going to tackle from behind, you're definitely going to hit them with something, even if you do get the ball. After the game he shook my hand and said, 'I should
have stayed on my feet, I should have got up', which was nice of him, and fair play to him, but it was a bit f*****g late. To be sent off in front of your friends and family."
Ian Harte: "I was gutted for him."
Mick McCarthy: "Instantly I thought, 'Let's change this, I’ll get Stevie Finnan on, go one-four-one and see if we can hold on.”
Robbie Keane: "I thought: 'It's either me or Duffer off here.'"
Damien Duff: "I thought: ‘One of the strikers is gonna have to come off, I wonder who it will be?'"
Jason McAteer: "I nearly shit myself. I turned around and looked at the sub and thought 'F**k it's Finn! F**k I'm off!' I thought he was going to bring me off."
Damien Duff: "I saw Robbie's number go up which was hard for him. He'd done well. He'd done brilliant."
Robbie Keane: “You're never pleased to be taken off, especially in a game like that. I was enjoying it, I felt good, felt sharp. I'm not going to lie and say I wasn't disappointed but l knew one of us had to go."
Damien Duff: "I thought, 'Right, you have to do it on your own up front now.’ I had played against Portugal up front on my own but had been dropping too deep, I learned a lesson from that."
Robbie Keane: "I went and sat in the dugout. 'Oh shit we've got ten men. Oh my God, we're playing Holland and they've got an extra man!'"
Three minutes after Kelly had made the lonely walk to the touchline, Steve Staunton was chasing back and about to intercept a ball chipped towards Van Nistelrooy, when he crossed wires with his oncoming goalkeeper. The result was almost calamitous.
Steve Staunton: "I was waiting for Shay to come but didn't think he was coming. And then, as I was ready to head the ball back, he shouted and I thought: 'I've just got to touch this cos Van Nistelrooy’s right on my shoulder.' And as I’ve headed it, I’ve looked at Shay and it's gone under his body."
Shay Given: "The ball came over the top and I remember running out and shouting to Stan 'Keeper’s!' Or 'Leave it!' I'm sure it was 'Keeper’s' but the noise was so loud I'm not sure if he heard me. Or else he heard me too late. I was only a yard away from him and he has headed it past me. I thought ‘I’ve got to try and get the ball’ but it was past me. I could see Van Nistelrooy coming. He was going to tap the ball into an empty net! I put my body in front of him to try and shield the ball and his momentum took me down. Obviously he was looking for the penalty."
Steve Staunton: "I never even thought of a penalty. Honestly. It never even entered my mind. All I could see was the ball rolling toward the post. All I was concerned about was that I wasn't about to score an og. And then I saw, I think it was Hartey and Kevin running back and knew it was okay."
Kevin Kilbane: "Hartey got to it first and put it out for a corner."
Ian Harte: "I just laugh every time I see it. I was chasing back and tried to get a touch on it and nearly put it in."
Matt Holland: "I'll talk you through this one. I'm running back towards the goal. The referee is, I think, maybe 10 metres behind me. I see the scrap for the ball and I'm thinking 'There's going to be a whistle in a minute.' I'm waiting for the whistle, knowing the whistle is coming. I'm running back, jogging back, still waiting for the whistle. No whistle! The ball goes round the post and there's still no whistle. I look around and the referee is pointing at the corner. I thought: ‘We got away with that one’."
Jason McAteer: "Very clever play by Shay Given. He knew exactly what he was doing. But my first reaction was not a penalty."
Damien Duff: "Penno. It looked like Shay had chopped him in half."
Niall Quinn: "You could see Van Nistelrooy sniff the fact that Shay and Stan had got mixed up and try to go past. And you could see that he was fouled to stop him getting there. We- couldn't have argued about a penalty there. You could look at it over and over again, it was a penalty."
Gary Kelly: "If mine's a sending off, that's a penalty: Would I have given it? Definitely. And if you give the penalty, you have to send him off. Maybe the referee said, 'I can't send two, off,' I'll be f*****g lynched!' But you don't know, do you?"
Johnny Fallon: "Relief."
With 30 minutes to play, Van Gaal decided to make a second tactical switch: Van Hooijdonk on for Numan. As the substitution was made, the ground vibrated with a familiar call from the Lansdowne faithful, "COME ON YOU BOYS IN GREEN". Never had the chant been rendered with such passionate desperation.
Stephen Staunton: "The intensity of the crowd really came through when we went down to ten men. I know they've been brilliant down through the years but I've never experienced anything like that before. It was as if another 100,000 people walked in through the gates."
Alan Kelly: "When Gary was sent off, it definitely went up a level. The sound was absolutely amazing. I think the crowd thought, ‘We need to get behind these lads. We need to make a difference’."
Niall Quinn: "Gary getting sent off added to the stakes and got everybody giving that bit more. Obviously the team react to it first, and the team didn't drop their heads. It was 'Roll-up-your sleeves time, backs-to-the-wall.' There was also a sense that they weren't enjoying it too much. The two lads up front (Kluivert and Van Nistelrooy) started arguing with each other and it was great for our lads to see that."
McCarthy urged for calm heads from the touchline. Backs to the wall, the team were starting to buckle under the challenge but cometh the hour, cometh the Roy.
Matt Holland: "Roy was immense. I thought he was absolutely fantastic. One minute he was breaking up the play, the next he was running 40 yards taking the pressure off us. I thought he was immense. And he drags you along with it."
Damien Duff: "He was running around like a lunatic. It just inspires everyone else. I've had an evil eye off him but if you run your socks off for him, you'll have no problems. You try and do the business for him. He's a legend."
Johnny Fallon: “You take so much for granted with Roy in a way. 'Roy"ll do it, give him the ball, don't worry.' I don't know how he does it, to be able to take the ball and make it look so easy. And what a relief for fellas to have. John Giles against Italy in 1971 was the greatest display I've ever seen in an Irish shirt. But Roy’s performance has to be up there on a par.
If Keane's (once again) was to be the outstanding contribution, he was about to lose the headlines to an old Amigo. The game had reached its 66th minute and Ireland had broken the siege and won a corner.
Jason McAteer: "I walked towards the corner flag, made a 'come on' gesture to the crowd and put the ball down. I'd taken a few good corners in training on Friday and just went through the routine and swung it in. But he's managed to punch it clear."
Damien Duff claimed the rebound and passed the ball to Ian Harte, who side-stepped a tricky challenge from Hasselbaink and laid it off for Keane.
Damien Duff: "Roy made a burst down the left, cut inside and gave it to me. Steve Finnan was out on the right, I played it across to him."
Jason McAteer: "I'm jogging in now. Just jogging in. Didn't have a clue what was around me, could have been a man behind me for all l knew. Then the ball went out to Finn who turned back on himself."
Damien Duff: "Steve's a good player. I knew there was a chance of him getting a cross in. He cut back to his left and crossed it. I was trying to flick it on."
Jason McAteer: "It skimmed Duffer's head and dropped in front of me."
Matt Holland: "Jason was in acres. I thought, 'Have a touch, bring it down, you've got time.' But he doesn't know what's behind him so he hits it first time."
Alan Kelly: "It's funny, but the week before, we've both been bombed out of the first team and we're training together. The ball drops for him five times, in similar situations and it's save, save, wide, save, wide. So we're walking off the training ground and you know what his head is like: 'F**k it,' he says, in his thick Liverpool accent, 'I'm never going to score.'"
Jason McAteer: "It was instinctive. The ball bounced up and I've just got a whip on it. I could do it ten times and never hit the target again, but it just went in."
Johnny Fallon: "Joy."
Mick McCarthy: "Absolute joy."
Ciaran Murray: "I jumped and embraced Packie. "
Mick Byrne: "I jumped six feet in the air."
Joe Walsh: "The elation was just unbelievable."
Shay Given: "I went into supporter mode for maybe a minute. I didn't even know it was Jason at the time. People were hugging each other and just going mad. The atmosphere was electric."
Damien Duff: "It was just unbelievable. He went sprinting off but I was too tired to run after him, so I went across to Stevie and congratulated him cos he's done brilliant for the goal."
Niall Quinn: "It was a great moment. Alan Kelly was beside me and we're all over each other. Just can't believe it."
Steve Staunton: "I clenched my two fists but didn't sprint after him. I had to save my energy."
Matt Holland: "Don't ask me why but I'm always one of the first to congratulate whoever scores. I ran straight over. Kevin Kilbane was with him in the corner. I held my arms out and waited and he jumped into my arms."
Jason McAteer: "I always end up with Kevin Kilbane after a goal. We hugged each other. That's when I remember the crowd going mad. I ran across the pitch but wasn't really out of breath. Looked at the bench and gave them a gesture, ‘That's for you’. I turned round and looked at the clock. There were 20 minutes left."
Joe Walsh: "There's a clock behind the dugout. I kept looking at the clock."
Johnny Fallon: "I was worried about my ticker. I thought, ‘I'll never get through this’.”
Robbie Keane: "It was the longest 20 minutes ever. When you're playing, it's different, but when you're sitting on the bench watching!"
Gary Kelly: "Try being sent off!"
Robbie Keane: "I'm no good at watching games. I get too nervous."
Kevin Kilbane: "We had to defend with our lives."
Ian Harte: "We couldn't get out of our own half."
Ciaran Murray: "It was like the Alamo."
Shay Given: "It was just attack after attack after attack."
But the Dutch were feeling the pressure even more and at a time when he needed to stay calm and detached, Van Gaal buckled and made his worst decision.
Joe Walsh: "When they put up Overmars' number to take him off I thought it was a mistake. I knew then that we had them. It was like winning the lotto. Taking Overmars off. Their best player. I couldn't believe it."
Steve Staunton: "When we went down to ten men, they really didn't know what to do. They took Overmars off; I thought, 'That's good’. They took Zenden off; I thought, ‘That's great'. He put Hasselbaink on; I thought, 'Please don't have him playing through the middle.' He went over on the right. He played Van Hooijdonk down the middle; I thought, ‘Yeah, we can handle this'."
Alan Kelly: "The tactics were just: Hasselbaink, who couldn't cross a ball to save his life, playing right wing. This technically brilliant team just went long ball!"
Mick McCarthy: "Strange decisions. It was almost as if he didn't want to take one of his star strikers off. ‘We'll put as many strikers on as possible and we're bound to get a goal' but you need people creating them. Their shape was lost completely. With 15 minutes to go I thought 'Meat and drink to us.' We’ll cope with this."
As the game entered its final phase, Matt Holland chose a break in play to approach Kluivert — the hero of his son Jacob's Playstation game — and pose the question he had been practising all week. "Mag ik je shirt hebben alsjebliest, Patrick?" The striker looked at him, visibly surprised. An opponent asking for his shirt in Dutch? Now that was a first. "Yeah, no problem," he replied.
And it probably wouldn't have been if Holland hadn't immediately undone his good work by outjumping Kluivert as another hopeful ball was pumped into the Irish box. But Ireland's cause was greater. And for those last 15 minutes it was backs-to-the wheel for all as the siege continued.
Shay Given: "For the last 20 minutes it was onslaught after onslaught. There was one save at the end, a weak header from Van Nistelrooy, and it was just a basic dive to my left. But I remember the ball going away from me by a yard and being hard to grip because I was sweating so much. My gloves were just drenched in sweat."
Gary Kelly (watching on an RTE monitor in the tunnel under the stand): "As I was walking off I thought, 'Jeez, if we get beaten four or five-nil I’m going to take some stick.' And then Jason scored: 'Great. Hold on now.’
“With 20 minutes to go Larry Mullen (U2's drummer) came down. I think he was getting a helicopter to head back up to Slane. We were watching it and it was like .'Oh Jesus!' And we just kept hanging on and hanging on."
In the 87th minute, McCarthy made his second substitution — Niall Quinn for Damien Duff. "It felt odd, because I was asked to come in and be a centre-back," Quinn recalls.
"And it seemed to last a lot longer than it should, but then he played a few minutes of injury time as well. I think I could have been on the pitch for nearly ten minutes. Ten minutes of frantic activity all round, and desperation. I must have headed the ball about a dozen times. It was ridiculous."
After 90 nail-biting minutes, the fourth official posted three minutes of injury time to be played: Van Nistelrooy went agonisingly close to scoring again and then McAteer had a chance: "Roy put me in. I thought: 'Do' I go for goal or do I go for the corner?' I decided to be the model professional and made a sharp burst for the corner flag and kept it for a couple of seconds before being robbed. I got cramp in both calves as I was running back. I was gone."
In the 92nd minute McCarthy made his final substitution, sending Andy O'Brien on for the exhausted winger.
Jason McAteer. "I remember coming off, couldn't believe it. Mick Byrne and Ciaran have come over to me: 'Right get the ice on your calves.' So l take the ice and one of them says, 'Get yourself into the dressing room.' I said, ‘Are you f*****g sure?' I went to the bench and threw on a jumper. It was almost over. I was thinking: 'Don't score. Don't score. Blow your whistle.'"
And then, finally, as Richard Dunne, hoofed another missile clear, the referee did.
Gary Kelly: "I thought 'thank f**k, got away with it.' I didn't fancy Mick going through me. After that, I was just looking forward to getting away from there, just looking forward to the flight back to Leeds."
Shay Given: "One memory from the day? The final whistle. It was immense. It was the best atmosphere I've ever known in an Irish shirt by a mile. I could have stayed on the pitch for a couple of hours, but emotions were running so high a lot of what happened is a blur. I can't remember who came to me first: I think Stan was there and then Packie came on ... Mick Byrne. Mick McCarthy. They were all shaking my hand."
Jason McAteer: "For some reason you get all this energy again — my calves were suddenly fine. I was back running on the pitch. I remember Mattie coming over, grabbing Mattie."
Matt Holland: "I went to Kluivert to get his shirt. He said: 'In the dressing room.' I thought: 'If he's going to be like that, leave him to it.' Then I just remember hugging everyone near enough, on the pitch."
Damien Duff: "The best thing was being out on the pitch. A few of the boys went down to the end and clapped the fans, they were brilliant. I wasn't sure where my family were sitting so I couldn't wave to them or anything. And then it was back to the dressing room."
Niall Quinn: "The final whistle was brilliant. The excitement on people's faces. Stan was the first one I went to. Nothing was said. We just looked at each other: ‘We're still here. We're still proving them wrong.' Stan especially, because he had played from the start and was magnificent. It's a lovely feeling. You get your kicks from stuff like that."
Steve Staunton: "The Big Fella came over. We've been together since our Under-21 days and have come through a lot since. We'd proved people wrong? I didn't have to prove a thing to anyone. I just don't like letting people down; my family, the manager, the rest of the team."
Alan Kelly: "I was standing by the bench with Lee Carsley. All the photographers came round very quickly to get pictures, so we were looking over them. Jason had shot off towards the East Stand. Mick Byrne was doing a jig and Roy then walked past. Roy doesn't hang around. He gets off the pitch straight away. We followed him in and then I saw Andy."
Steve Staunton: "I've always been sharpish off the pitch. There was a big melee in front of me. I walked straight round it and headed for the tunnel. I was walking down the steps with my head down to make sure I didn't slip when I heard this familiar voice from above: 'Stan! Stan!' I looked up and it was Andy. He was even more excited than I was."
Andy Townsend: "There haven't been many games since I've stopped playing which have had my pulse racing, but this one, I was kicking every ball. Cursing the linesman. I was so excited when the whistle sounded. I just had to get down to shake the boys' hands."
Mick McCarthy: "I saw Andy. He was all choked up. It was nice to see him; he has always been one of the good guys, from my point of view. I invited him to the dressing room, but he declined."
Andy Townsend: "It wasn't a case of not wanting to go in. I was very much aware of the fact that when I played, and when we had some success, it's a wonderful feeling that's to be enjoyed by everybody in the camp. And only everybody in the camp. It was a special moment they should share."
Mick McCarthy: "People have no idea. You're out on the pitch enjoying it and everybody is buzzing, and you come off and walk down the stairs and there's this TV camera and they want an interview. It brings you down very quickly."
Johnny Fallon: "The thing that really stood out for me was Van Gaal's face at the end, the disbelief. He was shattered. It was as if his whole world was wrapped around his ankles. And I know I'll probably get shot for saying this, but I felt for him."
Steve Staunton: "There were only a handful in the dressing room when I went in. Roy was there. He said well done. But to be honest, we just sat there."
Niall Quinn: "You look at Roy, and he's giving out to somebody about what they did 25 minutes into the game and everybody's going: 'What's he on about?' But that's typical. That's Roy for you."
Jason McAteer: "Roy is sitting there like he is before it — doesn't say a thing. He shook my hand but would never give you a hug. I looked at him and thought, 'I'm happy I scored. I'm happy we're in this together. I'm happy I've done my bit for you.”
Kevin Kilbane: "Everyone was waiting for Trig (McAteer) to come in. We piled on top of him in the dressing room. It was fabulous, absolutely fabulous. The best atmosphere in a dressing room I've ever encountered. Niall and Stan have played in the World Cup and know what it's like, but for the rest of us, it was the stuff of dreams, what you dream about when you're a kid."
Steve Staunton: "Everyone was so excited. It was everything you could imagine, but I was tired. I was mentally, and physically drained, probably more mentally than physically. People don't realise it, they think it's all physical, but the build-up to an international game is mentally draining."
Alan Kelly: "I remember going up to Stan, he looked shattered. A lot of people were physically and emotionally drained."
Mick McCarthy: "They were sitting with bags of ice on them, absolutely knackered. There were no champagne corks popping or anything: It was a very weary dressing room, but a very happy and content one with what we'd achieved."
Steve Staunton: "The best bit was when Mick Byrne arrived in: 'We owed them effin Dutch,' he roars, smashing the door open. And it nearly came back and hit him in the face. That would have been funny. I would have enjoyed seeing that"
Mick Byrne: "Everybody was hugging everybody. "We done it, 13 years we’ve waited. We’ve waited 13 years. And youse f*****s have done it.” It was great to be part of it."
United as never before in the dressing room, the team dispersed almost immediately afterwards, some to Slane, some to Leeds, and some for a night on the town. A week before, Damien Duff had promised his 12-year-old brother Jamie that, win, lose, or draw, he would be home after the game. It was a promise he intended to keep.
Damien Duff: "I walked across to the Berkelely Court Hotel to get a lift off me ma and da. There were loads of people there. We stayed for a half-an-hour and went home. I was tempted to go out, but I'd promised. Mam and dad went out celebrating. I stayed in, watched the England game and ate lots of crap."
Gary Kelly: "I had four people over for the game from Leeds, but I couldn't bring myself to go and see them afterwards. You feel like you've let everybody down. I didn't know what to
do. I didn't know whether to stand outside the dressing room, sit in the dressing room or get on the bus. I couldn't wait until the bus came. I was embarrassed. I was ashamed. I just wanted to get back."
Jason McAteer: ''Gary was very quiet, very distant, as if he had let the lads down. He didn't want to be a part of anything, which was wrong. He had his bags packed and was ready to go. I felt sorry for him, but because I was getting pulled from pillar to post, I didn't get a chance to say anything."
Ian Harte: "I would have liked to have stayed for the party, but we had booked flights back that night and I was in first thing Monday morning for treatment."
Shay Given: "I met me da in the players' lounge (Wanderers Pavilon) and he said well done. A couple of friends came in as well and they were all obviously delighted. I think me da and his friend had money on me keeping a clean sheet with a bookie in Lifford, so that helped."
Alan Kelly: "My cousins had organised a minibus. We were going up to Slane to see U2. I don't know how they did it, but it was parked outside the players' bar. We had a few drinks and then piled into the back of this Fiat Minibus."
Shay Given: "My sister, her boyfriend and a friend from back home had come up and we'd arranged to drive to Slane. We came out of the ground and started walking to her car. I was dressed in normal clothes and wearing a baseball cap. The pubs were packed, there were loads of people outside drinking, but I think I was recognised just once, when I went into a shop. Outside of that, nobody recognised me, which I thought was quite funny."
Jason McAteer: "I had arranged during the week to meet John Aldridge and a friend, John McKenna. I changed in the hotel and shot into town with Dave Connolly and was with them in a bar when I got a call from Joe O’Herlihly, the U2 sound technician, asking me down to Slane to go on stage with Bono. If I could change one thing about the day, that would be it. I wish I'd gone down."
Kevin Kilbane: "I was out with my wife and saw a lot of supporters. Everybody was just buzzing, you just couldn't take the smile off their faces. Everyone I came into contact with was absolutely ecstatic with it all. I had a couple of pints and by ten o'clock I was just so tired; drained like I've never been before. I could hardly walk home. My bones were aching, my body was aching, I just wanted to go to bed."
Mick McCarthy: "I came back to the Airport Hotel, went downstairs with Fiona, watched about ten minutes of the England game and had a Chinese meal. I had a load of pals over. We had a pint at one o'clock l went to bed. I was bolloxed. Completely."
Niall Quinn: "I stayed in the players' lounge and let the crowd head off. I had family and friends in. We caught a couple of taxis, had dinner at the Lemongrass restaurant in Naas, and then came back into town to meet up with the lads in Lillie's Bordello."
Jason McAteer: "We ended up in Lillie's Bordello. It could have been a very late night, but at about two o'clock in the morning I hit a brick wall and took a taxi back to the hotel."
Niall Quinn: "They were all in the Piano Bar in Lillie's and there was a singsong. Liam Brady, John Giles, Joe Kinnear and Eamon Dunphy were there. Roy arrived later with a couple of friends. All the barriers came down. Everybody was in great humour. We all had a go at something. Robbie Keane sang all the Boyzone and Westlife numbers."
Robbie Keane: "I can't help it if they want me to sing. You
Ian Harte: "He's on Pop Idols next week."
Gary Kelly: "Louis Walsh is looking for him."
Robbie Keane: "I think I'll stick to the football."
Niall Quinn: "It was just a great night. It must have been bright when we left."
Alan Kelly: "It was a good day for Ireland."
Joe Walsh: "One memory? At the end of the match the players throw their tops, t-shirts, socks and underwear into a pile in the middle of the floor. Johnny (Fallon) usually gives me a hand to collect it. So they'd all gone, the dressing room was empty, and we’re going through 'the rubble,' as Johnny calls it. In the middle of the pile is Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's jersey. And its funny, but I had seen him with it on before the game and he looked magnificent. But here it was now among the dirty t-shirts and jocks, the neck and waistband ripped, all wet and limp. And for me that just summed up the day and how Holland must have been feeling."
"What if a demon crept after you one day or night in your loneliest solitude and said to you: 'This life as you live it now and have lived it, you will have to live again and again, time without number; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and all the unspeakably small and great in your life must return to you. The eternal hourglass of existence, will be turned again and again — and you with it, you dust of dust' Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who thus spoke?"
Who’s Friedrich Nietzsche? What team did he ever play for? One thing's for sure, if he had been wearing the number 7 shirt at Lansdowne Road on September 1, 2001 he would never have written that tosh. Although, in fairness, he definitely would have described it better.
Me? I'm still struggling to find words: The ball dropping at my feet like manna from heaven, the net bulging before I've even had a chance to think, and then the joy, the indescribable joy. Arms outstretched and running towards the corner flag. Kevin running over, Mattie running over, Roy running over. Yeah, Roy running over with a smile on his face, now that's worth money.
And the scenes afterwards. The photographers chasing me round the pitch. The messages on my phone. The interviews on TV. I was a player again. A real footballer. It didn't really hit me until the dressing room when I was alone in the shower.
Don't know what came over me. Thought about Lisa and Harry and the rough ride we've had lately, Lisa's parents dying, the hassle at Blackburn, and just broke down. Cried my eyes out.
Watched the game again tonight. Don't think I'll ever tire of it. Went to bed with a smile on my face.
And if that demon did creep up and say: 'This life as you live it now and have lived it, you will live it over and over again' there would be no gnashing of teeth. I'd say: 'Thanks very much mate, look forward to it.' And I would. I've loved every moment of it. I would not change a thing.