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Robbie Keane recalls how the Ireland team reacted after Roy Keane’s 2002 World Cup bust-up

Roy Keane

“The atmosphere was just incredible.”

Former Republic of Ireland forward Robbie Keane has recalled how the Ireland squad reacted following Mick McCarthy‘s decision to send Roy Keane home from the 2002 World Cup.

Roy sent shockwaves through the footballing world 19 years ago for his infamous ‘Saipan’ fiasco, which saw him clash with then-manager McCarthy.

Following the Corkman’s dismissal, Robbie revealed that none of the players within the camp wanted the former Manchester United midfielder to leave, but added that the team “pulled together”.

Robbie Keane

Roy Keane.

Heading into the 2002 World Cup, Keane was Ireland’s best player but his public disagreements with McCarthy meant that he didn’t play a single game at the tournament.

The team was stationed on the island of Saipan to carry out their training ahead of the start of the competition.

However, the former Nottingham Forest man was less than happy with the conditions on the island and voiced his anger about the same in an interview with the Irish Times.

Roy Keane

“It’s different if we came here to a top training facility,” Keane said at the time.

“I can’t imagine any other country, countries in the world who are far worse off than us, playing on something like that. I don’t think it’s too much to ask, just for a pitch that’s even watered. It’s so dangerous. It’s rock hard.”

Following his public outburst, McCarthy felt that Keane had crossed a line and decided on sending the Irishman back home.

“I have made the right decision not only for the benefit of me but the squad as well,” McCarthy told a press conference at the time.

“He is one of the best players in the world, but he is a disruptive influence.”

Robbie Keane recalls the team atmosphere.

The loss of one of the team’s best players ahead of a crucial tournament was seen as a big blow to Ireland’s hopes of progressing.

Robbie spoke in an interview with The Coaches’ Voice and recalled his firsthand experience within the Irish camp back in 2002.

“Nothing will ever beat putting that green jersey on. Ever,” Keane said of playing for Ireland.

Robbie keane

“Earlier in my career, I’d found it surreal to be playing in a major tournament – the first one I went to was the 2002 World Cup.

“It had only been seven or eight years before that I was watching the team and pretending to be World Cup teams on the street with my mates. To be living the dream at 21 was amazing.

“That group (above) had such an amazing team spirit. The atmosphere was just incredible.

Robbie keane

“Nobody had wanted Roy Keane to leave the camp as he did just before the tournament, but these things happen in football and the players pulled together.

“That’s what a good team does.”

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