Fifteen years on from that famous incident in Saipan, which threatened to derail the Republic of Ireland’s 2002 World Cup preparations, former Ireland manager Mick McCarthy has reflected on the events involving Roy Keane’s departure from the Irish training camp and the summer of debate that followed.
Speaking to Second Captains’ Richie Sadlier, the Ipswich Town boss said he had no regrets regarding his decision to call a meeting following Roy Keane’s comments in an interview he gave to the Irish Times, which resulted in the pair having a very public falling out.
This disagreement ultimately saw the Manchester United captain leave the squad.
“If you give me 15 years to think about what might happen, I think it still would have happened.
“Maybe the two people involved would still be the same but no I don’t regret it, not at all. That was the crux of the matter, people judging my management.
“Maybe they should walk in my shoes a little bit at the time and see. They have no idea, and I don’t regret that either – the meeting – no not at all.
“That was needed and what came out of it was what came out of it. But as far as I’m concerned the dog wags the tail, not the tail that wagged the dog.
“I’m doing it as I see fit and one major explosion of an incident doesn’t, in my view, determine what I achieved with Ireland, and even then we had a great World Cup.”
The Republic of Ireland had a successful World Cup – reaching the last 16 where they were beaten on penalties by Spain – as Roy Keane returned to Manchester and McCarthy also revealed those events in Saipan ultimately led to the former Ireland International resigning from the role the following November despite the on-field success in Japan and South Korea.
“It quite clearly was having an effect, not so much on me, it was having an effect on the team. And then when we went 1-0 down [against Switzerland] I thought win this game and we’re off.
“We equalised, and I changed the team, I wanted to win it, I was going to resign, and then of course somebody [Fabio Celestini] sticks it in from 25 yards and we lost, so I thought it’s time to go anyway.”
If Roy Keane had stayed on in Saipan and made the trip to Japan and South Korea, could Ireland have achieved even more at the 2002 World Cup? And if McCarthy had stayed on, could Ireland have had more success at international level? We will never know.
However, the events of Saipan in 2002 will never be forgotten by Ireland fans as the debate continues over who was right and who was wrong.
Damien McEvoy, Pundit Arena