Saipan remebered | 

Roy Keane wasn’t the ideal Ireland captain for the World Cup finals

Niall Quinn wrote an exclusive column for the Irish Independent during the 2002 World Cup. Here we republish his column from May 25, 2002 where he agreed with the decision to send Roy Keane home . . .

Mick McCarthy and Niall Quinn during a press conference to announce the departure from the squad of then captain Roy Keane before the 2002 World Cup. Photo: Sportsfile

Niall Quinn

It's been an astonishing week, incredibly hard for everyone and it’s left us with heavy hearts, on all sides.

As we flew to Japan yesterday morning without Roy, I spent my time looking back and asking myself, how did it go this far? I think everyone else did too.

I suppose it would be wrong to dwell on it as we have over three weeks now to make the tournament a success.

And as callous as it sounds, we’ve got to try and forget about what’s happened, to look forward rather than back.

We wouldn’t be doing our duty to the public at home if we sit and dwell on it, although I have to say even the most optimistic among us could hardly disagree that things could be difficult now.

Aside from it all, I feel gutted for Roy that he’s missed the chance to show the world what a great player he is.

When we played Portugal and Holland at home in the qualifiers, some would say he played them on his own; he was terrific against two of Europe’s top nations.

I would have said this tournament was tailor-made for him. He’s in the prime of his career and I really thought that, when they totted up points for the Opta Index for best player of the tournament, I expected Roy to be up there.

Naturally, he’s a huge loss. I would hate to put the death knell on his Irish career but after what happened at Thursday’s turbulent meeting in Saipan, as long as Mick McCarthy is in charge, I don’t see Roy playing for Ireland again.

That’s not a startling revelation, that’s just fact. Ultimately, having ¦witnessed what happened at that meeting, there’s no argument with that statement, as tough as it sounds.

That ten minutes or so in Saipan on Thursday was unprecedented and while I’m loathe to give exact details or references to what was said, it was clearly understood by everyone at the meeting that Roy and Mick could never be in the same Irish set-up again – that’s how strong it was.

If you want to try and pick the bones out of what happened, there is an argument to be made that Roy should have left well alone for a few days instead of giving interviews to two top feature writers.

That was a mistake. I think he might have needed a few days to simmer down. Roy had a bee in his bonnet for a few days and after the first set-back when it looked like he was going home, we were all told the following morning that everything was fine.

Training was good, and everyone seemed happy. The problems seemed sorted. But the article that appeared on Thursday raised questions again, leaving Mick with no option. He rallied the players’ meeting specifically to ask Roy about it.

I think he wanted Roy to say, ‘Look, I was still a bit hot and bothered and I spoke under duress when I shouldn’t have’.

That would have been the end of it. But as we know, Roy’s reaction to Mick’s questioning of the article was to explode with an unprecedented tirade of abuse.

It wasn’t just about, the article – that’s between Mick and Roy. There was more.

I’ve been a team-mate with Roy for a long time, I’ve seen his career develop and it saddens me to see his international career finish like this, if it is finished.

I’m gutted that he’s not here with us, that he’s not going to play in the World Cup finals, but I can’t look any further than Roy’s door for blame.

In some ways, it may help us get stronger, but there is a void and I’d be stupid to say we won’t miss him.

As Mick said on Thursday, we won’t miss the bad humour, the giving out, and all the negative things. But you know we’ll miss Roy on the pitch, he’s a great player, but Roy wasn’t the ideal captain for the World Cup finals.

To a man, all 22 of us agreed with Mick to send Roy home. After what was said, we agreed to group together and see how the matches go

If Roy had been allowed to stay, I don’t think Mick would have had 22 players in agreement.

Mick has the support of all the Irish players here. He’s earned it over the years. He is a very sincere and solid man. I’ve said to one or two of the guys that if one needed to confide in someone then he would be the first I would pick out. He is very genuine. We used to think that as a player that he was too serious. But you realise now he was cut out for management because of that. On the pitch, Mick was a huge influence.

I’ve never played with anyone who was doing the stuff he did, like barking orders out consistently, frightening the referee, the linesmen, and the opposing players, while at the same time he had everybody doing their job.

Off the pitch, the rest of us used to head out as soon as we had the chance, but Mick was discussing matches and coaching patterns. We used to think, ‘Oh God, put the ball away!’ But, he has now chilled as a manager and qualifying has been brilliant for him.

There was a fabulous picture in most of the papers where he had tears in his eyes. People were saying that was the first time they had seen a soft side to Mick.

I remember in Italy (in 1990) he didn’t get that emotional. When the penalties were going in, David O’Leary was crying his eyes out, as was Packie Bonner, while Mick was going, ‘Get yourself sorted for the next one’. But that was the first time I had seen him show emotion (after the Iran game). We missed out by a hair’s breadth on qualifying for the last two tournaments, but he said he knew we could do it, and I think that’s why the tears probably came.

Now he is a supremely confident person.

He has always lived on his confidence and believed he could do things – but there’s just that little edge that he knows it.

So here we are now and we arrived in Izumo in good spirits in spite of all that has happened.

The reaction from the people here has been wonderful, so genuine and supportive.

The reception at the Dome was moving for us all, and it was lovely to see the Izumo people, young and old, there to welcome us as well as our friend, Major Masaliro, who seemed quite emotional to have us here.

The pitch at the new stadium where we trained was excellent and we had a lively session.

I’m not surprised that Mick has gone for Damien Duff and Robbie Keane to play together in attack today as they’re the first-choice pairing and are developing a fine understanding of each other.

As an Irish fan, I’d love to see them hit it off in the finals.

Being realistic, I can’t see them playing all 90 minutes of three games and if I’m the type of player needed to come on, I’ve got to be ready.

I might be getting on, and all the rest of it, but the first person I’ve to convince of my fitness is myself and I feel I’m nearly there now. The first couple of days after we met up I struggled, but this week has gone great. I won the yellow jersey for worst trainer in Ireland and had to wear it in the first training session out here, but I got rid of it. I’m not even getting a vote these days!

(In an interview with Philip Quinn)

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