Throwback Thursdays - Roy Keane Misses the World Cup

Roy Keane

"You can stick it up your bollocks!"
Who hasn't dreamed of saying that to a manager we view as incompetent? Prior to the 2002 World Cup, Roy Keane ended a spectacular verbal tirade aimed at Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy by saying just that. 

It was an explosive end to a brilliant qualifying campaign for Keane and the Irish. They had emerged from a very difficult World Cup Qualifying group at the expense of the Netherlands, and followed that up with a two legged playoff victory over Iran. Keane had been a key performer throughout qualifying and was expected to be a driving force behind the Republic of Ireland's World Cup campaign.

Keane, the Manchester United and Republic of Ireland captain at the time, was a brilliant player but fierce character who demanded the best of those around him on the pitch and off it. 

The man from Cork though, has never been known for his diplomacy and trouble was brewing between him, the Irish Football Association and McCarthy before his eventual meltdown in Saipan. 


As early as 1991, Keane had branded the FAI "a joke" and was critical of the National sides preparation for matches, from the training right down to the meals prepared for the squad. For a man who would later slam the "prawn sandwich brigade" at Old Trafford, it was particularly galling for Keane that FAI officials always flew first class, while the squad was crammed into second class on trips. He was rarely impressed with the training facilities and hotels chosen for the squad, and didn't believe the management was up to scratch either.

Keane, a serial winner at club level, had told United boss Sir Alex Ferguson that he was "going to the World Cup to win it." The combustible captain must have known that this was very unlikely, and for a man like Keane this wouldn't have sat well. To borrow from Will Ferrell's Ricky Bobby, Keane was very much of the belief that "if you're not first, you're last."

To compound matters, certain sections of the Irish media were on his case about what they perceived to be his lack of commitment to the National side's cause. The fact that he had been quite open in the past about saying that he enjoyed the time on the pitch for Ireland, but "not all the shit around it", didn't endear him to everyone. Keane also took a hammering in the press for not playing in teammate Niall Quinn's charity testimonial prior to the tournament. So needless to say, he did not head out to Asia in the best frame of mind.

Roy Keane and Mick McCarthy

The Saipan Incident

Before flying to Japan, to complete their final preparations for the World Cup, the FAI had selected the island of Saipan for some rest and relaxation for the side before they began their serious pre-tournament training. Angered that they were wasting valuable training time, and further enraged by the inadequate facilities, Keane was on the verge of leaving the squad. 

McCarthy attempted to hold clear the air talks with his disgruntled captain, but by all accounts Roy wasn't interested in talking about it with him.

In a move that may have been calculated, Roy did talk to a reporter from the Irish Times, which resulted in the story of Keane's frustration being plastered all over the front page the next day. Understandably, McCarthy was not impressed and an argument broke out between the two men. 

Keane, never one to mince words, unleashed the following verbal assault on the Yorkshireman, "Mick, you're a liar … you're a fucking wanker. I didn't rate you as a player, I don't rate you as a manager, and I don't rate you as a person. You're a fucking wanker and you can stick your World Cup up your arse. The only reason I have any dealings with you is that somehow you are the manager of my country! You can stick it up your bollocks."

And with that Roy Keane's World Cup was over before it had started. He was sent home by McCarthy and the Republic played out their World Cup campaign without him. 

The reaction back in Ireland was divided, as some people supported Keane, while others felt he had let himself and the country down. His teammates, on the whole, stood behind McCarthy, despite a few of them telling Keane in private that they agreed with him. 

Roy Keane and Mick McCarthy before their messy divorce

The Aftermath

The Republic of Ireland emerged in second place out of a group containing Germany, Cameroon and Saudi Arabia, and would eventually go on to lose to Spain on penalty kicks in the Round of 16. 

Roy Keane resumed his club career with Manchester United, winning another League Title and an FA Cup, before having another spectacular falling out, this time with his club manager Sir Alex Ferguson. 

After a checkered management and media career, Keane in a surprising twist is now the Assistant Manager of the Republic of Ireland under Martin O'Neil. 

As for McCarthy, after leaving his National side post, he has carved out a decent, if unspectacular club career with clubs like Sunderland, Wolves and Ipswich. Although he and Keane buried the hatchet in 2006, one can't help but wonder what impact Keane would have had for Ireland in 2002, and if he could have helped take them further in the competition.


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