July 12, 2024

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.”

Roy Keane Saipan Tirade

Back to Saipan Affair Table of Contents – Irish Football

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Saipan Table of Contents Roy Keane & Eamon Dunphy
Saipan Introduction Roy Keane & Cork
Methodology Keane’s Aversion to Being Away From Home
Saipan Conclusions Roy Keane’s Relationship with Ireland
Roy Keane – Mick McCarthy Relationship Roy Keane – Zenith Data Systems Cup
Roy Keane Version of Saipan Incident Roy Keane – Jack Charlton Relationship
Mick McCarthy Version of Saipan Incident 1 Roy Keane’s Flawed Character
Mick McCarthy Version of Saipan Incident 2 Roy Keane’s Good Character
Niall Quinn Version of Saipan Incident Roy Keane – Footballer
Jason McAteer Version of Saipan Incident Roy Keane – Team Captain
Matt Holland Version of Saipan Incident Roy Keane – Family Man
Roy Keane & Saipan – The Backdrop Roy Keane & Faking Injury
Roy Keane & Saipan – The Issues Roy Keane – Bad Boy
Keane / McCarthy Boston Row 1992 Roy Keane – Career Lows
Keane Misses Iran Playoff Game Roy Keane – Red Cards etc
Keane Misses Niall Quinn Testimonial Roy Keane – Cruciate Injury
Countdown to Saipan Incident Roy Keane & Alf-Inge Haaland
Roy Keane Saipan Tirade at Mick McCarthy Roy Keane & Gareth Southgate Red Card
Roy Keane / Tom Humphries Saipan Interview 1 Roy Keane & Alan Shearer Red Card
Keane / Humphries Saipan Interview 2 Roy Keane / Alex Ferguson Relationship 1
Roy Keane / Irish Times Saipan Interview 3 Roy Keane & Sir Alex Ferguson 2
Roy Keane / Paul Kimmage Saipan Interview 1 Roy Keane & Charity
Keane / Kimmage Saipan Interview 2 Roy Keane & Autobiography Contradictions 1
Roy Keane / Sunday Independent Saipan Interview 3 Roy Keane & Contradictions 2
Roy Keane / Tommie Gorman Interview 1 Roy Keane – Integrity
Roy Keane / Tommy Gorman Interview 2 Roy Keane – International Matches
Roy Keane / RTE Interview 3 Roy Keane – Football Record
FAI Involvement in Saipan Affair Roy Keane & Sandwiches
Saipan Reaction of Irish Players Roy Keane – Walker
Mick McCarthy – ‘crap player, crap manager’ Saipan – Pacific Island
Roy Keane / Mick McCarthy Playing Record I Keano – The Musical
Colin Healy – Forgotten Man of Saipan Roy Keane – Football Manager
Saipan Ten Years Later Roy Keane’s Dog Triggs
Roy Keane’s Autobiography Saipan Bibiliography


Roy Keane – View Seven Years After Saipan
Football Quotes about Saipan


Triggs – The Autobiography of Roy Keane’s Dog
Ireland at 2002 World Cup Finals – Irish 2002 World Cup Squad – Irish Group Matches
Ireland V Cameroon – Ireland V Germany – Ireland V Saudi Arabia – Ireland V Spain