The 12th anniversary of the Saipan World Cup storm that rocked Irish soccer occurs this Friday – and former Ireland captain Roy Keane just can’t let it go.
Now assistant coach to Martin O’Neill with the Irish national side, Keane used a World Cup launch by his ITV television employers last week to re-open old wounds.
Speaking in London in his role as an ITV pundit for the Brazil finals, Keane turned his mind back to events on the Pacific island in the weeks leading up to the 2002 tournament in Japan and South Korea.
And while he may have apologized to Mick McCarthy in the past for what happened on the historic island, Keane settled another few old scores in his interviews late last week.
Speaking to the Sunday Times and the Irish Sun newspapers among others, Keane had a pop at Irish boss at the time Mick McCarthy, his former Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn and myself, Irish Voice columnist and now sports editor of the Sun’s Dublin operation.
Manchester United legend Keane did admit in the interviews to apologizing for Saipan in a meeting with McCarthy after the stormy events in 2002 when the Irish boss sent him after his training camp tantrum.
“I met Mick and we discussed it, yeah. I apologized for what went on but not for my behavior,” Keane said.
“I’ve apologized for loads of things. I apologized for a situation that happened but it doesn’t mean you apologize for your actions.
“You are sorry that something happens. I was sorry for what happened at the World Cup. Sorry about what happened with the situation. I didn’t say it … I have no apologies for defending myself.”
Again, Keane claimed last week that McCarthy was wrong to confront him in front of his Irish teammates after he had criticized the facilities available to the team in Saipan.
“Well, it wouldn’t have happened if I was the manager. Not just the preparation, but criticizing or questioning a senior player in front of a group of players. That would never happen,” Keane said.
“I go back to it again. People have different camps and different issues. That’s never an issue, I didn’t care what side people were taking.
“I wasn’t on the TV a week later or a month later. I said my bit, but no one seemed to ask Mick why he questioned certain things.”
Keane also hit out at McCarthy’s decision to write his World Cup diary with Dervan, whom he believes encouraged fans to boo him at an Ireland-Ireland game in 1996.
“If you remember, a couple of days into our time in Saipan we were having BBQs with the media. We all have different aims in life, different agendas,” Keane said.
“I think two years previously a reporter, Cathal Dervan, told the fans to boo me against Iceland, and they booed me. A year or two later Mick wrote a book with Dervan. Small world isn’t it?”
Speaking directly to English journalists in London, Keane said, “Put it this way, it’s like one of you lads before a World Cup saying everybody should boo Wayne Rooney.
“And then a year or two later Roy Hodgson writes a book with somebody who said that about one of his players.”
Keane also responded to the criticism he received for missing Quinn’s testimonial at Sunderland in 2002.
“ITV did a documentary last year on Cristiano Ronaldo asking me would I contribute and I said no. And I like Ronaldo but I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t do program notes,” Keane said.
“And why does Niall Quinn get a testimonial? How many years do you need to get a testimonial with your club? Ten.
“And how many years did Niall Quinn play for Sunderland? And I was injured, I had two dead legs, not one.”
Current events did get some airing in the bizarre interview. Keane will miss Ireland’s training session on Saturday before the Turkey game 24 hours later as he is on Champions League final duty with ITV.
He will review his television commitments after the World Cup finals in Brazil this summer when both Keane and Martin O’Neill will work for ITV.
“I’m not comfortable with that, but obviously the fixture was only confirmed a few weeks ago and I told Martin and the FAI that I had a commitment to do the Champions League. It won’t happen again,” added Keane.
“I will have a look at it in the summer, definitely. It’s an area for me to look at. It has not been a problem.
“Martin’s fine with it, obviously the FAI knew had a commitment till the end of the season and obviously the World Cup.
“But I will take stock in the summer. I am under no illusions about what my priorities are and that is working with Martin and the team, and if I feel that anything else such as this or anything else might be a distraction then I will knock it on the head.”