June 20, 2024

Mick McCarthy’s Version of the Saipan Incident – Part 1

This Account is taken from Mick McCarthy’s World Cup Diary – Chapter 7


The build up to the sequence of events that led to Roy Keane’s departure from Saipan and the 2002 World Cup finals are well known and broadly agreed by all parties involved. The tedious travel, the unavailability of gear when the squad arrived, the poor state of the training pitch, and the row over the goalkeepers are all established facts. The following is Mick McCarthy’s take on the events in Saipan that led to the fateful Irish soccer team meeting in the Hyatt Regency hotel in Saipan.

The Final Straw for Roy Keane

Tuesday 21 May 2002: Coach Alan Evans – Taff – had taking the goalkeeping training session. It began 30 minutes before the outfield players began training. In his book McCarthy says that the keepers were exhausted after a gruelling session. Roy Keane asked Evans could he have two keepers for a nine-a-side game. Evans declined and when “Keano comes over and has a moan at…” McCarthy. The manager referred him back to Evans – “…this is Taff’s game and Taff’s rules.”[Page 162] Keane was not happy.

McCarthy did not witness the ensuing exchanges between Keane and goalkeeping coach Packie Bonner, and Keane and goalkeeper Alan Kelly, but he heard about it later. McCarthy was not unduly concerned as this kind of thing was not an unusual occurrence.

Following some bicycle exercise McCarthy returned to the hotel and met the Manchester United captain who appeared to be waiting for him in the hotel lobby. Keane bluntly announced that he wanted to go home and told McCarthy that there was still time to call in a replacement. McCarthy asked Keane what was the problem, the pitch? the gear? was it a problem with McCarthy? the FAI? the row over the keepers? Keane denied it was any of that, it was personal. McCarthy was “gobsmacked” as he had no idea this was coming. He had breakfasted with Keane that morning and everything seemed fine.

Despite further probing Keane was adamant that it had nothing to do with anything that had happened in Saipan and that he wanted to go home for personal reasons. Nothing would change his mind. McCarthy told the FAI’s logistics officer, Eddie Corcoran, to organise Keane’s flight home. He also told Chris Ryan the FAI Administration Officer as FIFA would have to be notified. McCarthy also shared the news with Alan Evans and his wife Fiona. At 6:30pm McCarthy called Colin Healy to tell him he should prepare to fly out to Japan.

Roy Keane Changes his Mind – Twice

McCarthy then told Irish team physio Mick Byrne who went to see Keane in Hyatt Regency hotel room 758. After a while Byrne came back to McCarthy with the news that Roy had changed his mind. McCarthy and Byrne went to Keane’s room. Keane confirmed his change of heart but McCarthy pursued him in an attempt to secure assurances that he won’t change his mind back again. “Will we all have to walk on eggshell?” McCarthy enquired. Even as Keane was giving the assurances McCarthy saw that Keane was unhappy about the reference to walking on eggshells.

When McCarthy told Keane that Colin Healy had been put on standby Keane became visibly agitated and wanted out again. He repeated “…two or three times that I should count him out in the midst of a very long and fraught conversation.”[Page 166] McCarthy offered to cancel the call-up of Colin Healy. Keane said he was “…going home and that’s final.” [Page 167] McCarthy asked Keane to think about it one more time and then returned to his hotel room for a shower. Mick Byrne left with McCarthy. A short while later McCarthy’s door bell rang. McCarthy was in the shower so Mick Byrne answered. It was Keane to confirm that he was definitely out of the World Cup and going home.

Roy Keane Changes his Mind – Again

Wednesday 22 May 2002: Around 8am the next day FAI President, Milo Corcoran, called to McCarthy’s room to say that he believed Roy Keane wanted to stay with the squad. McCarthy dispatched Mick Byrne to Keane’s room to ascertain the true situation. Byrne returned to confirm that Keane wanted to stay. McCarthy wondered why Keane hadn’t contacted McCarthy with his latest change of heart – “If it wasn’t for Mick going to his room, I would never have known that Roy wants to stay.”[Page 169].

{Sidebar: McCarthy asserts that “…a fax had been sent by the FAI half an hour earlier with Roy back in the squad, even before I even knew he was staying.”[Page 169]}

When they met for that day’s training session McCarthy said that Roy Keane offered no explanations for his latest change of heart. Keane declined to get involved in trying to explain the past 24 hours to the assembled media instead “…we agreed that I will say he wanted to go home for personal reasons and also his old knee injury was acting up. He is happy to go along with that…”[Page 170].

McCarthy said that training went well and most of the players played a round of golf in the afternoon. As McCarthy was leaving the hotel that afternoon he noticed that Roy Keane was giving an interview to a journalist.

He commented that “It does strike me as strange that he is talking to … journalists so soon after telling me that he had no desire to talk to anyone until Sunday.”[Page 171]. Keane was giving interviews to Tom Humphries of the Irish Times and Paul Kimmage of the Sunday Independent.

NOTE: Unless stated otherwise all quotations are from:
Mick McCarthy: Ireland’s World Cup 2002; Mick McCarthy & Cathal Dervan (2002); Simon & Schuster UK Ltd

Mick McCarthy Account of Saipan Incident – Part 2

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