On 25 May 2002, rather than training on the Pacific island of Saipan, preparing for the Japan/South Korea World Cup with the Republic of Ireland squad, team captain Roy Keane found himself instead back at home in Cheshire walking his dog and being pursued by the media, writes Ian Searcey.
Keane had complained in the past about the attitude of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) towards the national team, but matters came to a head as the Manchester United captain regarded the preparations for the 2002 World Cup as unprofessional, challenging the FAI and manager Mick McCarthy over issues such as the conditions of the training field, travel arrangements (which made the players sit in second-class seats on flights, while FAI officials sat in first class), strategy, expectations, diet and, most damaging perhaps, McCarthy’s competence.
Having told Alex Ferguson he was going to the World Cup “to win it”, and dismayed by what he found on Saipan, Keane gave an interview to journalists from the Irish Times and the Sunday Independent detailing his concerns, with subsequent articles suggesting that the combative midfielder felt the trip was more of a junket for the Irish football officials than a serious attempt to compete at a major tournament.
A team meeting called following publication of the interview ended with Keane launching a tirade of verbal abuse towards McCarthy, telling him he was a liar, what he could do with the World Cup, and ending with (the possible anatomically impossible) “..you can stick it up your b******s!”
So Keano came home proclaiming he would never play for Ireland again under McCarthy, while Ireland made it out of the group stage to the last 16 before losing to Spain on penalties.