Roy Keane in Limerick, part 2: 'You need a nastiness... you need an edge to you'

Donal O'Regan


Donal O'Regan

Roy Keane in Hayes’ with interviewer, Mike Aherne, and UEFA head of development and Cappamore Celtic FC president, Noel Mooney, left Picture: Dave Gaynor

Roy Keane in Hayes’ with interviewer, Mike Aherne, and UEFA head of development and Cappamore Celtic FC president, Noel Mooney, left Picture: Dave Gaynor

IF ROY Keane never hears the name of the largest of the Northern Mariana Islands again he’ll be a happy man.

But in part two of Roy’s talk at a fundraiser for Cappamore Celtic FC he discusses Saipan in minute detail.

“I didn’t go to Saipan looking to come home after a week. That wasn’t my intention when I was sitting on the plane, ‘Do you know what, I hope I have a big argument next week, everyone in Ireland hates me in a week or two, my parents are going to be upset and stressed, my wife and kids will be upset, the media will hammer me for months and years’.

“I wasn’t sitting on the plane dreaming of that. I was dreaming that I want to get out of the group with Ireland, have a good World Cup. I experienced ‘94 and it was great, it wasn’t perfect but it was a good experience. We got out of a tough group under difficult circumstances, playing in Orlando in the heat. We had some singsongs in Orlando but everything in moderation. Saipan was a crossroads.”

The journey to that juncture started many years before 2002. It involves Roy’s temperament, treatment from the FAI, row with Mick McCarthy in the 94 World Cup and a few missing items for a team preparing for the biggest sporting competition in the world.

Aged 11 or 12, Roy recalls falling out with a friend for five years after his teammates didn’t want to go to training as he had a new skateboard.  

“Saipan was a combination of a skateboard, disagreements - I saw the kids training tonight. Clubs are always fighting hard for new facilities, I look at kids and at least you’ve got bibs, balls and cones. If you’ve got that and a pitch - you have a chance. We didn’t have that in Saipan, it always goes back to Saipan…”


“The stuff with Ireland is probably coming to a head since I was 15. Maybe I’ve got too good of a memory - I went on trial in Dublin with nine players from Cork. I felt I done alright, as a player you know. The only person not invited back was me. I got my head around it, that was the decision. One of the selectors said, ‘You played really well but we felt you were too small’ and I was tiny. I was 15, only a child. They shouldn’t have told me the truth, just say ‘Come back next year’. Maybe this is part of my own makeup but after rejection I thought, ‘I’ll show you, I’ll show you who is too small’.”

Mick McCarthy: Row 1

“I fell out with Mick at World Cup ‘94. I was a young player, I was late for the bus, it was out of order. I’ll tell you what we were doing, we were out drinking.

I should have been on time, I think I had a hat on ‘Kiss me I’m Irish’. I should have hit myself. We were at the back of the bus having a laugh. Mick was a player - I was a captain myself later - you let the manager deal with that stuff.

“Mick came down to the back of the bus, this is where my problems started with Mick. He said, ‘Ye’re a disgrace’, having a go at the players for being late and Mick is still a player. He came heading towards me, I think I took my hat off at that stage ‘Kiss me I’m Irish’. ‘You’re a disgrace’, having a pop at me. I told him take a run and jump. Even as a senior player I wouldn’t be having a go at a player for being late.”

World Cup 2002

“We had been brainwashed for years that the World cup is the pinnacle of your career, great for the economy, supporters travelling to Japan, spending millions, selling their TVs, selling their cars, the Credit Unions are broke... I couldn’t be a front for all that. I had been for a number of years.

Mick has a different story, I appreciate there are two sides to every argument. We got over there and there was no bibs, balls or cones. Was I at breaking point? Probably not, there was a bit of a laugh and a joke, I was laughing, thinking ‘typical’.

“I spoke to Mick as a senior player. Older player have said to me since - I’m not patting myself on the back - they should have brought this up six years ago.

“Sometimes we all stick our heads in the sand. It got to the point where enough was enough. I politely said, ‘I can’t believe what is going on’. Mick said, ‘The gear was supposed to be here two or three days ago. I said, ‘Two or three days ago? It should have been here three weeks ago to make sure the bloody gear is there’. Then it came to a bit of a bust-up and a blow-out.

“I stood up for what I thought was right. No one is yet to convince me. People say ‘You were out of order’. That’s not going to keep me awake at night. You have to fight your corner. Do I wish it had been different? Of course. Do I look at my actions? No, I don’t.”

Poacher turned gamekeeper

“Now it has come full circle and I love working with Martin [O’Neill], staff, players, FAI - everyone is on the same wavelength with the senior squad. People think I have high standards, my standards aren’t as high as Martin’s, that’s why I think we get on so well.

“I’ve worked with people with no interest in going places, energy sappers, people who wanted an easy life, if they are comfortable with it good luck to them and sometimes I’m jealous of them. Saipan was a crossroads. The beauty is the FAI took all that [Genesis Report] on board and I’ll tell you when we go to international matches or if we qualify for the next World Cup or the Euros there will be bibs there, there will be balls there, there will be cones there.”


“I’ve really mixed emotions about my time in Celtic. When I left Utd I was coming back from a broken foot. I was hurt, I was upset, been treated so badly. I had some good offers, some bad offers. Celtic came knocking, massive club and I had been up there to watch them on big European nights. My lawyer rang me and said Real Madrid offered me a year and a half. What an experience for my family, live in a nice city, learn Spanish. In hindsight, not going to Real Madrid, part of it was my pride - if I went over and couldn’t get in the team, my hip was playing up...

Celtic dominate a lot of matches, the Scottish League might be a little bit easier. I was 34. Do I regret signing? Absolutely not because you live and learn. I wanted to play Rangers in a few games, I wasn’t going up there to play Falkirk and Motherwell.”

Gordon Strachan

“This sums up my time there. I think it was Dundee Utd at home, Celtic were 3-1 up. I was coming back from a hamstring tear and on the bench. Gordon said, ‘Get warmed up’. I took the tracksuit off. As I’m getting warmed up Dundee United make it 3-2 and Gordon says, ‘Hold on a second’. I’m looking at him thinking, ‘I can deal with Dundee United 3-2 at home in Celtic Park, I’ll manage’. I sat down, obviously cursing him under my breath.

“He said ‘Get ready” with five minutes left. I did a few jogs up and down, took the tracksuit off and then Dundee United scored. Gordon said, ‘I can’t put you on’. The game finished 3-3 and afterwards I’m thinking this is not right. I wasn’t kicking any doors down. If Gordon couldn’t feel he could throw me on at Dundee United at 3-2 or 3-3...

“I picked up a few injuries there. Celtic are an amazing club, I don’t regret it, what I did really enjoy was the dressing room.”

Patrick Vieira

“People remember the Vieira stuff, to me the Vieira stuff is nothing. If that was not caught on camera it would have been no big deal, these things do happen in tunnels, people do have a bit of argy bargy, that was never my game. Even ranting and raving - I was never a shouter, ‘Let’s kill somebody’. There was one player for Ireland - I won’t mention him - he’d be in the tunnel shouting, giving me a headache, then when the game starts he is the first to jump out of a tackle.

“All that happened in the tunnel with Arsenal was we had a few words with each other. People say, ‘I think that won the game’, that’s all garbage. You just put a marker down with people, there is that side of it. Vieira kicked me, I kicked him, I get that, it didn’t carry on after. It’s professional sport, you need a nastiness, you need an edge to you.”

Alf-Inge Haaland

“Do I regret it? [Long pause]. I was badly injured. I don’t care what anyone says, I wouldn’t dream of going up to somebody who was badly injured and having a go at them, no matter how nasty I was or lost the plot. I always go back to Mayfield where I was brought up. I played hurling, football, soccer and rightly or wrongly if somebody gets you, you know what I am going to say next. You get them back.

“People always think that was the first time I played against him, I played against him two or three times before the tackle when I injured him. It was a bit of argy and bargy. There was an incident on the pitch, I thought you kind of done me, you stood over me, you slagged me off.

I remember the PFA hammered me, ‘You can’t be doing that, it’s a disgrace’. I got a big suspension, huge fine, United fined me. I didn’t appeal any of the decisions. If I crossed the line and I’m out of order, no problem. When I was lying injured on the floor, badly injured, snapped my cruciate, two or three players from Leeds saying, ‘Get up, you’re faking’. Nobody had a go at them. My point is it is all right for people to come over and have a go at me when I was badly injured, then when I kind of tackled somebody it is not allowed. Part of my mindset is - it is an eye for an eye.

‘That’ Juventus game

Everyone brings up the Juventus game and I kind of get fed up with it sometimes. You only remember it because I scored but I scored in another semi-final against Leverkusen when we got beaten. Things get exaggerated about me - the good stuff as well. Your memory can play tricks on you, the Juventus game has grown legs.

“People say, ‘You were brilliant, you carried them’. I’m not a great one for watching games back but it was on recently and I watched it. If anyone wants to argue with me that it was one of my greatest performances then we are in for a good night. I get the part of the story and media spin because United won but we still had to score two more goals. And in fairness to Yorkie and Coley no one says to them, ‘You were brilliant’. I got a yellow card, bit of sympathy behind it, I got suspended for the final but then people say, ‘You carried on’. I’d love to ask people - what was I supposed to do? If you’re playing for a team, you get a yellow card, you’re suspended, am I supposed to go, ‘Oh that’s me out of it, I don’t really care if we win or not’. Was I upset? Damn right I was upset because part of my mindset is I thought we’d get to another final. That’s my biggest regret at United - people say, ‘You missed that final’ - I missed lots of finals.

Dwight Yorke

"When I was manager of Sunderland I got on all right with Yorkie. I left Yorkie out for one or two games. We had a League Cup game against Northampton at home. We were one nil down at half-time against the mighty Northampton. I lost the plot a little bit at half-time as you are allowed to do as a manager. Yorkie was on the bench with a towel around his neck - ‘I’d like to be somewhere else’. I don’t expect all my subs to be happy clappy but be ready in case you need to go on. We came back and won 2-1. In the following round it went to a penalty shoot-out - Yorkie annoyed me in the tunnel the way he didn’t celebrate with the team. He had the towel around his neck, he may as well have been sitting on the beach in Trinidad.

“I left Sunderland not long after that. I thought Yorkie downed tools for me but if you asked me tomorrow who was my best signing? Dwight Yorke without a shadow of a doubt. I was there two or three weeks trying to lift the club. I know he likes the drink and likes his women but Dwight Yorke loves his football, don’t be fooled. I was in Sunderland where it is dark all day, even in August it’s bleak. It’s a tough city, really great people, working class people - it suited my personality down to the ground. I rang Yorkie, he was at Sydney in November, had a penthouse over Sydney Harbour and drove a white Lamborghini.

“I ring him from Sunderland, ‘Yorkie, how’s it going? Do you fancy coming to Sunderland?’ He hung up. I rang him back. He came back, was brilliant in the dressing room, great lad, I’ve a lot of time for Yorkie. Part of me wishes I was like Yorkie, very laid back. I left Sunderland under a bit of a cloud, not a big cloud like Saipan or United but a bit of cloud. Yorkie, I felt didn’t do well for me the last few weeks, downed tools for me a little bit even though he had done brilliantly for me.

“He texted me after I left, ‘Sorry you’ve left’. Nice and warm isnt it? He forgot the fact I saved him from Sydney! Whatever mood I was in, obviously wasn’t great, I text ‘F*** yourself’. People say you are out of order. What am I going to say, ‘Cheers Yorkie, thanks for the memories, fancy a drink?’ You downed tools for me for the last few weeks. Yorkie was on some TV chat show and somebody asked him about me as they do. Yorkie could have said, ‘I had a great time with Roy at Man Utd, I had a great time with Roy at Sunderland’ but no not Yorkie.

"Strangely enough I got a text while I was sitting at the hotel waiting to come here that Dwight Yorke is looking for my number so he might be ringing me to say sorry. If Yorkie came in here tonight, ‘Alright Roy?’. Do you think I would be polite to him? Course I would. I’m sure there are people here who work in an office, building site, I’m sure they’ve had words with people they have worked with.

"I fell out with Denis Irwin. You’re thinking - how did you fall out with Denis Irwin? Denis has a halo over his head but I get on all right with him now. We are in that industry - you are pushing each other, you are upsetting each other but when I fell out with Denis, he didn’t report it to the media. So everyone thinks me and Denis have been friends forever.

"He’s not like Yorkie, goes on live TV and shows this text from Roy - big baby.”