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The lost apology of Saipan: Before a ball was kicked, the central theme to the story of 2002 had already been written

Vincent Hogan watched from the wrong side of the world as the final part of that act played out

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Roy Keane speaks with Mick McCarthy in the heat of Saipan before the eruption occurred. Photo: David Maher/SPORTSFILE

Roy Keane speaks with Mick McCarthy in the heat of Saipan before the eruption occurred. Photo: David Maher/SPORTSFILE

Roy Keane speaks with Mick McCarthy in the heat of Saipan before the eruption occurred. Photo: David Maher/SPORTSFILE

It was an apology that would need to carry east through eight time-zones and a blizzard of rumour and counter-rumour that left no threshold for ambiguity.

Roy Keane was, reputedly, ready to say sorry. Ready to set a conciliatory tone that would rinse all of this sudden angst from our lives and allow sleep patterns in The Green Morris Hotel, Izumo settle into some semblance of order.

That stark, box-like, nine-storey structure was the Irish media's base for our final World Cup countdown. A strangely islanded precinct turning into the last week of May 2002 as we wrestled, not simply with the story of our missing captain, but an eight-hour time difference that meant his ungovernable mood-swings would have to be monitored, parsed and processed from our end in the dead of a Japanese night.