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Bertie Ahern says he offered to mediate Keane/McCarthy Saipan clash but was not called upon

Bertie had earlier met Keane at Dublin Airport before he flew out with the rest of the squad, but noticed he was a loner

Republic of Ireland captain Roy Keane arrives at Saipan airport, Friday 24th May 2002, after manager Mick McCarthy's shock decision to dismiss him — © PA

Eugene MastersonSunday World

Bertie Ahern has revealed he offered to be a mediator in the infamous Saipan saga involving Roy Keane And Mick McCarthy – but claims his services were not called upon.

The former Taoiseach reveals in a new documentary to be screened on RTE tomorrow night that overtures were made to him to intervene, following the wake of his success four years earlier with the Good Friday Agreement.

“There was s a suggestion put to me. It came through Tommie Gorman, that would I help. When Tony Blair and I were doing the Northern Ireland peace process, we rarely had all the parties in the one room,” he recalls

“What you did was you separated one side from the other. What was required was to try get the two people involved either together, or to listen to one side or the other separately, and then try and find a common ground together. That’s is what was required if called upon and I readily said I would but was never called upon.”

Bertie had earlier met Keane at Dublin Airport before he flew out to the World Cup in 2002 with the rest of the squad, but noticed he was a loner.

“I always remember he was on his tod. That seemed a bit strange. I went over and chatted to him. For some reason he wasn’t talking to any officials or no players, and none would go near him.,” he recollects.

Many call the situation where Keane was sent home from Saipan by McCarthy as the biggest division in Irish Society since the Civil War and Bertie admits It was a difficult period.

“It was just so sad. I think for both Mick McCarthy and Roy Keane. So sad for the entire team, but also so sad for Ireland,” he maintains.

He believes Ireland would have beaten Spain in the knock-out round if they had Keane.

“If Roy had played, we would have won it, no doubt about it. If Roy had been playing against Spain, we would have won it no doubt about it,” he claims.

Jason McAteer stresses Roy always had some beef with his fellow players, even when they drew against the Netherlands away in the qualifiers.

“We came into the dressing room and we were all celebrating. Basically, Roy turned around – ‘what are you all celebrating for, we gave a two-goal lead away, should have won this game, we have dropped points, there’s nothing to celebrate’,” he says.

Shay Given explains Keane was a perfectionist “because of the career he’s had and I suppose the standards he set as a player”.

Ian Harte agrees: “:If you were a player he’d demand you to be on your game because if they didn’t he’d let you know half time or on the pitch.”

Clinton Morrison adds: “He set standards as high as possible. He’s coming from Man Utd playing with some of the best players winning stuff, so when Roy speaks we listen.”

McAteer remembers the seeds were sown when Keane was not happy about food being given to the team.

“When I picked on something between them it was over a pre-match. Food that was put out,. It wasn’t to Roy’s kind of liking and standard,” he reflects.

Keane could not make the play-ff game against Iran because of injury, but Given thinks he should have gone

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern

“Roy wasn’t go to make the Iran game, but obviously a couple of days later he was fit to play so maybe he should have travelled and been there in a supportive role if nothing else, it was such a massive game,” he stresses.

When they went to Saipan there was an attempt at bonding.

“ My understanding it this was training, a few nights out or whatever it was to get the lads even closer together,” adds Shay Harte agrees.

“: I think it’s important to have a good togetherness in different country anyways, so you want to be away from everyone else,” he notes McAteer recalls the kit never turned up for a training session.

“ The kit never turned up, we trained on the training ground. It was dry and long, the grass,” he says. Morrison says Keane was not happy.

“ When the kit goes missing and that’s not there, on the first day of training. Its difficult. Roy at Clin: the moment he’s not happy. We go to the training pitch and the training pitch is horrendous,” he explains

“We had a game at the end of training. We don’t have no goalies. I remember he’s taking his vest off, oh no he’s losing the head.”

The famous bust-up with McCarthy kicked off, with McAteer remarking he thought Roy was “a bit harsh”.

“It was crazy, just arguing amongst each other. You’re just thinking to yourself ‘why is this happening’.”

When Keane had a go at McCarthy for being born in England, Morrison recalls: “I put my head over the table because obviously I’m born in England too, ‘I hope he’s not coming for me too.”

Ahern recalls the fall-out.

“Somebody told me that there was a bust up in Saipan. I think nobody in Ireland knew where Saipan was including me. Almost in a few hours everybody seemed to be talking about Saipan,” he ponders.

When Keane went home McAteer remembers the squad getting on the coach.

“Everyone had their own place on the coach, its kind of like superstition going on. His was the back corner. Someone had written ‘’RIP{‘ where his seat was,” he smiles.

Morrison remembered the TV coverage of Keane out walking his dog at home.

“He’s just walking a dog. He shouldn’t be walking a dog; he should be here training with us. It was disappointing,” he argues.

McAteer wonders what could have been the outcome if Keane had remained with them.

“He was the best midfielder in the world. It was his stage. It was his time to shine. I’m gutted he missed that World Cup. I wish it had never happened,” he sighs.

Saipan - Rebel Without A Ball tomorrow RTE1 9.35 ,


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