2002 Roy Keane Saipan incident

The Saipan Incident was a serious public quarrel in May 2002 between Republic of Ireland national football team's captain Roy Keane and manager Mick McCarthy on the Pacific island of Saipan, where the team was preparing for its matches in Japan in the 2002 FIFA World Cup. It resulted in Keane, a key player, leaving the squad. The general public in Ireland was divided about apportioning blame for the incident. The undermining of McCarthy as manager was seen as playing a part in his departure shortly after the World Cup.


Prior to the incident, Roy Keane was captain of the Irish national team. As a player, he always held high expectations for his team-mates and preparation, the national team being no exception. However, since his senior debut under the reins of Jack Charlton and then-captain Mick McCarthy, Keane had perceived problems with the preparations of the Irish side. He regarded the Football Association of Ireland (FAI)'s preparations as unprofessional and challenged both Charlton and McCarthy in a number of notable incidents. At the same time, Keane developed a skepticism towards the leadership abilities of McCarthy, particularly after the latter took over from Charlton.

Among Keane's issues with Irish management were 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 McCarthy's competence. For example, in his autobiography, Keane said that before a World Cup qualifier away versus the Netherlands, the Irish players were eating cheese sandwiches because pasta, the proper diet before games, was not available. This was countered in Brendan Menton's book.

World Cup preparation

During the summer of 2002, the Irish football panel were sent to the Pacific island of Saipan in preparation for the World Cup.The facilities had been selected by an FAI delegation, with the minimal involvement of team manager Mick McCarthy. Keane is reputed to have told Alex Ferguson that he was going to the World Cup "to win it", Keane having seen Ireland as having potential to go further than previously. This was later denied by Keane but has become an article of faith among pro-Keane Irish journalists.

On the 21st of May Keane decided he was going home. [http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/archive/2002/0522/Pg022.html#Ar02201:0AA09020D1430C51500F016808935D0A43750A435D0B43751A929E1B42B51B42A01D42B517A37E1A639527A1EE2A62062AC2CF2D82E622240225F42142F4C044A4D844D4C045C4D86E44C370F4DB0A31500B71680B71500BF16819522E1B02451852FD1A131423832D2533442B928E2D42A61F640221B42140D4C04184D84184C242A4D7] On Thursday the 23rd, he was sent home by McCarthy.

From the management perspective the time in Saipan was considered a period of relative rest and recreation at the end of a long season before moving to mainland Japan to up the preparation levels for the tournament. Keane, on the other hand, viewed it as a period of preparation for the World Cup Finals. Contrary to some suggestions, Keane did attend a barbecue with the Irish media. However, with the team training the following day, he returned to the hotel at its conclusion for a good night's sleep. The remainder of the squad stole off to a nearby English pub - where they drank all night with the journalists.

The media

However the media was now very eager to get as much news as possible as public interest was now increasing. Irish broadcaster RTÉ became aware of the developing row, as did several Irish newspapers. The 'bust up' between Keane and the team management was reported without any journalist managing to hear Roy Keane's views on team preparation.Fact|date=March 2008Because of its isolated location, there were certain stories circulating about the event which were all critical of Keane. The "Daily Star" newspaper had been a harsh critic of Keane for months in the run up to the competition. This included persistent allegations about Keane's commitment to the Irish soccer team. Much of this criticism was regarded by some paranoiacs as an attempt to attack Keane's club Manchester United and its manager Sir Alex Ferguson, but the statistics concerning Keane's Irish career do suggestFact|date=March 2008 many convenient injuries before matches. The Daily Star was also in close communication with FAI management.Fact|date=March 2008 In this context, with considerable media coverage – little of it favourable – a need arose for Keane to give his perspective. Keane gave an interview to leading sports journalist Tom Humphries, of the Irish broadsheet daily newspaper "The Irish Times", to present his case to the Irish people. In retrospect this proved to be a major scoop for the Irish Times. In the article, Roy Keane listed the events and concerns which had led him to decide to leave the team. This article included details and references to the preparations that had been set in place for the Irish team. The article directly confronted the FAI as being uninterested in player welfare, team preparations, or fan expenses. This, if believed, would result in an indirect implication that the event was organized as a junket for FAI officialdom. The article was interpreted as a direct affront to the authority of the Irish manager, and the competence of the FAI. Senior members of the FAI were now vulnerable to finger-pointing concerning yet another scandal in Irish public life. The article escalated tensions to a considerable degree. The crisis reached boiling point. McCarthy now decided to attack Keane over the article. Keane refused to relent as he had told what he considered to be the truth, to 'the newspaper of record', and the Irish people.

In a team meeting McCarthy held up a copy of the article and asked "What's this all about?" Keane then unleashed a stinging verbal tirade against McCarthy: “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.” [cite web |url=http://football.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,9753,1606114,00.html |title=10 classic Roy Keane rants |work=Guardian football] Niall Quinn observed in his autobiography that “Roy Keane's 10-minute oration [against Mick McCarthy, above] … was clinical, fierce, earth-shattering to the person on the end of it and it ultimately caused a huge controversy in Irish society.” [cite web |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/teams/s/sunderland/5281188.stm |title=The Odd Couple |work=BBC Sport] None of his team-mates voiced support for Keane during the meeting, though some later expressed their support to him privately. Keane mentioned in his autobiography that Gary Breen and David Connolly visited his room. Senior players Steve Staunton and Niall Quinn seemed to take the side of McCarthy, and the FAI, in the argument that followed. Staunton was the most loyal to the FAI line of the argument. Staunton was later given the captaincy in Keane's absence, and Staunton went on to become manager of the national team for two years ending in October 2007 after substandard performances and results throughout his managerial career with the team.

Keane alleged later in his autobiography – which appeared to contain the views of ghost-writer Eamon Dunphy rather than Keane, that Irish fans were "mocked" by the "lax attitude" taken by the FAI towards preparations. During a team meeting at which McCarthy allegedly accused him of feigning injury, Keane became extremely indignant as this questioned his level of commitment. Keane is thought to have responded by insulting McCarthy and questioning his management ability, though Keane denied this in his autobiography. McCarthy decided that his position was untenable in the light of the article. Keane refused to back down from a stand of principle. Both parties seemed to be locked in a dispute without any possibility of compromise. McCarthy then sensationally sent Roy Keane home.


Despite the efforts of the media and the Taoiseach, Keane and McCarthy failed to resolve the conflict and Keane missed the World Cup. Keane gave an interview concerning the controversy to RTÉ and when asked if it was possible to go back he did not deny that he might. Despite Mick McCarthy stating that the door was open and all Keane had to do was pick up the phone, Keane refused and did not even watch the matches on television.Fact|date=August 2007 The Irish soccer team were defeated by Spain in the second round.

While these events unfolded the Irish public became moved over the events to a degree that few had previously imagined possible. As a result of the Irish Times article, people who had marginal interest or knowledge of the Irish soccer team, now became divided into two sides of a national argument, one side supporting Keane and one side supporting McCarthy. It seemed as if everybody was aware of the Saipan controversy, and formed an opinion.

The Genesis Report

The FAI commissioned a report from external consultants Genesis, into its World Cup preparations. The "Genesis Report" agreed with many of Keane's criticisms, finding that the FAI structure was not conducive to good planning and making a range of recommendations. The complete report was never published for legal reasons. Brendan Menton resigned as FAI General Secretary at this time, and the media linked the two events, though Menton denied this.

The end of McCarthy

Roy Keane stated that he would not play again for Ireland under McCarthy. McCarthy continued as national soccer team manager and Ireland then played Russia in a qualifying match for the European Championship, for which Ireland were strong favourites to win. Ireland lost to a badly resourced Russian team 4-2, who had played badly in the World Cup. This was followed by a 'booing' episode in Ireland's next qualifier against Switzerland, with many fans blaming McCarthy. Ireland lost the game 2-1 at Landsdowne Road. In the face of rebellion on the terraces, a decrease in support for the national team, and consequent declining attendance revenues, the FAI decided to remove McCarthy. The appointment of Brian Kerr as team manager in 2003 led to Keane's return to international football on 27 May 2004, in a friendly match against Romania at Lansdowne Road.

ettling differences

As of November 2006, Keane appeared to have mended the fences with McCarthy when the two men settled their differences via a phone call ahead of a match between McCarthy's Wolverhampton Wanderers and Keane's Sunderland. McCarthy's sacking by the FAI, now left McCarthy and Keane both holding a rather ironic point of agreement, as both had been sacked when it suited key figures in the FAI. The televised, famous handshake received considerable media attention, much to the amusement of both Keane and McCarthy. In April 2007, the managers again met in another match, and Keane praised McCarthy for his work in Sunderland previous to Keane's tenure there.


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