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MICK MEMORIES Mick McCarthy offers up some words of praise for Roy Keane as he hails namesake Robbie as 'special'

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Robbie Keane with Mick McCarthy

Robbie Keane with Mick McCarthy

Robbie Keane with Mick McCarthy

Mick McCarthy has saluted three of the players who gave him his greatest moments as Republic of Ireland manager, with his old nemesis Roy Keane getting a mention.

Speaking to Ruby Walsh and Paddy Power on the From The Horse's Mouth podcast, McCarthy opened up on his finest moments with Ireland and most of them focused around qualification for the 2002 World Cup finals.

When asked to name his star performer, it didn't take him long to nominate Ireland's all-time record goal scorer, Robbie Keane.

"Robbie was amazing. When people ask if one player can really make a difference in a team, he made a difference," said McCarthy.

"He came up with the goals on a regular basis. If you think back to that Germany game in the 2002 World Cup, we were probably going out despite all the hard work that we had done, then Robbie tips up in the 92nd minute with the equaliser.

"I read an article once about Rafael Nadal, with people saying that Nadal has that ability – when things are getting tough – to get that shot just when you want it. But, he said ‘No I don’t have that ability, I just practice and practice and practice’ and then it’s a surprise when those players don’t make that shot. That’s all it is, but Robbie had that innate talent as well.

"They used to applaud him in training. There were times when you would just have to clap him, even if you were the one that he had nutmegged and turned before putting it in the top corner.

"If you ever watch his Premier League goals, it’s like 10 episodes of The Crown with how many goals he’s scored. They just keep coming."

Keane worked as an assistant to McCarthy during his second spell as Ireland manager, with the manager who stepped down from the role in April disappointed the Dubliner was not kept in a job by his replacement Stephen Kenny.

"It’s a shame it’s ended for him with the Republic of Ireland as well because he was great as an assistant to me. I hope he gets another job soon because he’s got so much to offer," said McCarthy.

"It was a great help to have him bridge the gap with the players, because he had only just finished himself. He knew the players, and he had a good relationship with them. He certainly helped me with some of the lads, just because he knew them. He knew far more about them than I did."

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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

McCarthy side-stepped questions about his infamous fall-out with Roy Keane ahead of the 2002 World Cup finals, but he had words of praise for his former captain and other star performers.

“Roy Keane was an amazing player," declared McCarthy. "We had him during the qualification campaign for the 2002 World Cup and I’m not going to knock him out of the team when I remember them because he deserves respect – because of the player he was and what he did for the team.

"We had some damn good players. When I look back at that squad, Ian Harte and Gary Kelly were playing for Leeds United, most of them were playing in the Premier League.

"Alright, there were some that might be in the Championship but pretty much they were Premier League footballers, and they were good Premier League footballers. They were recognised as good players.

"The other fella who was special was, of course, Shay Given. He’d pull saves off that would get the lads applauding. I was lucky – I had some special players. Damien Duff, when he was firing, was another really, really good player."

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