“Training on Sunday morning went as energetically as it could, given that most of the squad were either hungover or half-drunk.”
Richie Sadlier’s playing career was cruelly ended by injury. However, before that, he had been called up to the Irish squad for a friendly against Russia in February 2002. The call up came just a few months before Saipan.
Sadlier was joining the likes of senior players Steve Staunton, Niall Quinn and of course, Roy Keane. It was a whole new world to the Millwall forward, joining the international set up. He was also nervous when he realised there was a squad night out the day before his first training session.
Ireland night out
Sadlier writes in his book Recovering: “I had some concerns when it became clear the squad were heading for a night out as one. I wasn’t sure if I wanted my first training session with Ireland to follow on from a night on the piss, but I also knew it would be a bad idea to stay away.”
“By about 11 pm that Saturday night, I had overcome any concerns I had about being hungover during my first training session with the senior team.”
The former Millwall forward recalls the night in question. The squad was celebrating qualification for the 2002 World Cup achieved a couple of months previously.
“We would all head to Lillie’s Bordello as the night got longer and longer. It was the squad’s first get-together since qualifying for the World Cup in Iran two months earlier; and, it turned out, it was time to celebrate.
“The night went on late for most of us, but we managed to make it back to the Airport Hotel. Well, most of us did.”
Roy Keane hadn’t yet joined the squad as Manchester United were in action against Charlton on the Sunday. He was joining the squad the next day, something Gary Breen found amusing.
“Training on Sunday morning went as energetically as it could, given that most of the squad were either hungover or half-drunk…Roy didn’t train with us that morning because United were playing Charlton that afternoon.
“The plan was for him to join the squad in the evening, just in time to attended the FAI awards. I remember Gary Breen making a quip after training that there was no way Roy would miss a friendly. That’s not his style. Everyone laughed.”
Steve Staunton & Niall Quinn.
However, a couple of senior players missed the training session, having not gone home from the night before. With the FAI awards dinner on Sunday evening, it was a race in time for the two players in question to make it back.
Richie Sadlier said: “That evening we were told to meet in the lobby of the Airport Hotel to get the coach to the FAI awards dinner. As I stood outside my bedroom, ready to head for the bus, I spotted Mick frogmarching Stan up the corridor to his room.
“Mick looked a million dollars in his tuxedo. Stan, the professional footballer next to him, was a mess. He was all over the shop.”
Sadlier continued: “Having partied with us on Saturday night, apparently Stan and Niall Quinn didn’t want to stop. They’d fancied another drink and, like many in those situations, they’d come up with an ingenious way of getting one. They’d headed for Heuston Station and the early train to Waterford where they figured they’d be served. They made a day of it.
“At some stage in the proceeding, they clearly felt they should head back to the hotel to get ready for the awards. After all, Stan was one of the nominees for player of the year and his attendance was required. Once Mick saw him, he felt his attendance was very much not required.”
The RTÉ pundit was amused when, a few months later, Staunton was calling out Roy Keane for being unprofessional in Saipan.
“Stan showed up for training the following morning. Everyone laughed it off and moved on.
“Only a few months later, he was one of the senior players defending Mick in Saipan, calling out Roy for being unprofessional. He was quite convincing as well.”
Sadlier and Staunton showdown.
Richie Sadlier and Steve Staunton did actually clash a few years later on a separate topic. The former Irish manager was not happy with Sadlier’s comments on RTÉ when he was in charge of the national team.
According to Sadlier, Staunton said: “You’re on the other side of the fence now” before the intervention of others brought the exchange to an end.
Richie Sadlier’s book Recovering is available to buy here.