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Matt Holland's Version of the Saipan Incident
Irish international footballer Matt Holland won 49 caps for the Republic of Ireland scoring five goals. His most memorable goal for Ireland was in a 1-1 draw with Cameroon in the opening Irish match during the 2002 World Cup finals. It was Ireland's first match after Roy Keane had been sent home from Saipan by Mick McCarthy.
This Account is taken from Matt Holland's World Cup Column - Independent.co.uk
Matt Holland's account of the Saipan incident largely focusses on the what he terms as the "volcanic eruption" by Keane during that fateful Irish soccer squad team meeting.
He describes a situation where the players were sitting around chatting before the meeting totally unaware of what was about to happen. They believed that the meeting had been called to discuss travel arrangements to Japan. Holland said that he felt that the meeting was an attempt by the Irish football manager, Mick McCarthy, to "clear the air". "I think the manager wanted and apology from Keane, not so much to himself but to the rest of the players whom Keane had accused of 'accepting second best' - among other compliments.
When McCarthy asked Keane about his comments in the Tom Humphries Saipan interview, a copy of which McCarthy had in his hand, Keane wanted to discuss it in private. McCarthy said that Keane had made things public and involved the whole squad so "it was to be dealt with in front of the whole squad".
Keane refused to apologise and said that he stood by everything in the Irish Times interview. He then launched into, "an abusive attack on the manager. It was absolutely extraordinary to listen to, and like the rest of the squad, I was stunned. McCarthy tried to appeal to Keane...but Keane continued his barrage, leaving the manager absolutely no option but to send him home." Holland described the exchange between McCarthy and Keane as "The manager and captain slugging it out toe to toe, with most of the invective and appalling language coming from the player." Holland said that the meeting lasted just ten minutes.
Matt Holland then goes on to pose the question "What caused Keane to ruin his own World Cup and sabotage ours?" Clearly Holland believed that the Manchester United man was at totally at fault and this view is supported by other eye-witness accounts including Niall Quinn's Saipan account and Jason McAteer's Saipan diary . Holland says that he was not trying to "slate Keane" but was "reacting to the facts and the situation." After two years of a tough qualifying campaign and just days away from the beginning of the 2002 World Cup finals "our talisman, our one player who would get into a World XI, abuses the manager, the players and - I think in time he will come to realise - himself."
Holland commented that the loss of "our best player" was a blow but the squad rallied the next day. In fact Matt Holland went as far as to say that "now that the saga's over there is a definite sense of relief at Keane's departure. He had been his usual brooding self since our arrival in Saipan. From the very start he had moaned about, well, everything really and I feel ... that he wanted to go home all the time."
Holland described a lot of Keane's moaning as petty and that the training done in the humidity Saipan had "proved beneficial". Running was a lot easier once they got to the Irish soccer squad training camp in Japan.
Matt Holland finishes up his Independent column by outlining his pragmatic view of life in international football tournaments. "Life is a series of compromises and football and footballers are no different, particularly when you live together for extended periods of time ... No-one player is bigger than the game of indeed the team ... Keane lives in 'Roy Keane World' and refuses to accept other people's autonomy or opinions."
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Ireland at 2002 World Cup Finals - Irish 2002 World Cup Squad - Irish Group Matches
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