Keane suggests McCarthy ‘got off lightly’ during Saipan row

Ian Watson

Roy Keane has revealed what sparked the row with Mick McCarthy that ended his participation in Republic of Ireland’s 2002 World Cup campaign.

Keane was reflecting on the infamous battle of Saipan which ended with the captain leaving the camp days before tournament.

The former Manchester United midfielder clashed with McCarthy during a team meeting, having previously registered his disgust at the poor quality of the squad’s preparations.

But Keane says that grievance had been settled prior to the row, and the pundit has lifted the lid on what sparked the fall-out.

Speaking to the ITV’s World Cup podcast, he said: “Well, I was basically accused of faking an injury in a match and not being available for a match, when I was injured. It was really a strange time to bring it up, and it wasn’t true.

“So, you know, if you make those accusations against me have a guess what’s going to happen.

“Because one of the biggest problems of my career, I still look back, is I played far too many games – like a lot of players, I’m no hero – I played when I was injured.

“So to have that thrown at me and the timing of it, in front of the group of players, let me tell you, you’re going to get fireworks. And I would expect that from any player, particularly a senior player. So, there you go.”

Keane was asked if the damage could have been repaired in time for him to play a role in Japan and South Korea.

“I think if there was an apology possibly, yeah. Possibly.

“Listen, if you spoke to Mick or somebody or the staff, they might have a different side to it. I know it takes two to tango, but that’s what happened.

“And once I’d left the hotel, the team left early the next morning, the damage was done. And listen, if there was an apology that came my way, there was a mishap or whatever, yeah I think things could have been different.

“But once I landed back in Ireland, the damage was done. I couldn’t go back in to work with a manager who probably felt that about me.

“As I said the damage was done yet strangely enough no-one ever made these accusations against me when I was playing and we were winning matches and we were qualifying. So I found the timing really strange, particularly in front of the staff and the group of players.”

He continued: “So as I mentioned earlier, the bibs and the balls and the cones that weren’t there, that was all taken care of, that had settled down and by the end of the week we were kind of laughing and joking about that anyway, as you do, you have to move on, I get that.

“But to be accused of missing a game because of an injury that I was accused of having, believe it or not I actually let people off lightly, there could have been a lot more trouble, shall we say.”