May 25, 2024

Boston 1992 – Row Between McCarthy & Keane

An incident that had occurred ten years earlier seems to have been quite central to the Saipan affair in 2002. Most people had been unaware of a row in Boston, USA in 1992 between Mick McCarthy and Roy Keane, yet it seems to have been a very significant event for Keane. Particularly so in terms of his relationship with his manager Mick McCarthy of 2002. It was significant enough for Keane to reference it during his tirade directed at McCarthy during that fateful team meeting in Saipan. The accounts of Mick McCarthy and Roy Keane, as presented in their post-Saipan books, are outlined below, followed by an independent account from Niall Quinn.

Keane on the 1992 Row with McCarthy

On the morning that the Irish squad was due to fly home from the USA Keane and Steve Staunton went for “a drink….carrying on from the night before” Keane admits that they were “merry and giddy” and that they forgot the time. They were late getting back to the hotel and when they got there the rest of the squad was already on the bus waiting to go to the airport. Keane said that he and Staunton raced to their rooms to pack their bags.

When they boarded the coach Jack Charlton, the then manager of the Republic of Ireland soccer team, berated them for being late and told them that they had kept the rest of the squad waiting.

“Why didn’t you go without us? I didn’t ask you to wait” Roy Keane replied. “…I looked him straight in the eye. He was a bully, who didn’t like it when the boot was on the other foot…He backed off.” Keane says he then sat down on the coach only for Mick McCarthy to say to him “You’re right out of order, you.” Keane says he told “Captain Fantastic” to “Go and f**k yourself”[Page 61].

For an event that seems to have bothered Roy Keane to such an extent that he brought it up ten years later his autobiography he gives it minimal print space. In his book he only devotes two sentences to McCarthy’s involvement. Based upon Keane’s account it doesn’t seem to be a major incident and certainly not worthy of bearing a grudge for ten years. Yet that’s exactly what Keane seems to have done.

Mick McCarthy on the Boston 1992 Row with Roy Keane

Mick McCarthy goes into the Boston row in more detail in his 2002 World Cup diary [Pages181-183].

The day after the infamous Saipan incident one thing was still “puzzling” McCarthy. “Why is Roy Keane
so obsessed with events in Boston ten years ago?” McCarthy went on to question how Keane could let something “fester” for ten years.

It was at the end of McCarthy’s playing career and at the beginning of Roy Keane’s. The Republic of Ireland had just competed in the US Cup in 1992. It was a “fairly non-descript” tournament but it was “Keane’s first serious tour with the senior Republic side.” It was the last day of the tour and Jack Charlton had told the players that they could do their own thing so long as they were back in time to make the coach to the
airport. Some players “..went on the beer big time. Keane included.”

Some of the players were so late that their bags had to be packed for them and loaded on the coach. When the errant players finally arrived “…clearly under the influence…” the manager Jack Charlton “…got stuck
into…” them. Roy Keane “…decided to give as good as he got.” As the team captain, McCarthy got involved and told Keane that he shouldn’t have been late. Keane shot back at McCarthy with “…one of those sarkey comments of his…” about the way McCarthy was dressed.

Neither were inclined to back down and McCarthy admits “I lost my head…” It got so heated that Packie Bonner had to intervene to prevent blows being exchanged. Although it was never raised by Roy with McCarthy during the ten years until Saipan McCarthy states “I have since heard the claims made by Roy that I had told him I’d get him back one day, even that I pinned him up against the window of the bus, but both claims are rubbish.”

Niall Quinn on the Boston 1992 Row Between Roy Keane and Mick McCarthy

Niall Quinn’s version of the Boston 1992 row is a bit different to the other two versions [Pages80-82]

Quinn said that on the last day of the trip that most of the team decided to play a game of golf but Roy Keane and Stehen Staunton had already gone to an Irish pub called The Blackthorn in Southie. By the time the rest of the team got to the pub to pick up Keane and Staunton the idea of golf had been abandoned.

When the then Irish manager, Jack Charlton, returned to the hotel, “around teatime and there was Mick McCarthy and only half the team.” Charlton was angry however McCarthy knew where to find the other half of the team and rang the bar. McCarthy and Irish Physio, Mick Byrne, went around the player rooms and hurriedly packed their bags and loaded them on the team bus. “Jack was in a right fury now and headed off to the airport in a taxi in a huff.” Eventually the straggling footballers turned up for the bus. “Roy was the last on board, happy as a dandy and wearing a ‘kiss me quick’ hat. Mick tried to reassert control by having a little go off the new boy … ‘You call yourself a professional footballer?’ Roy scarcely paused. ‘And you call what you have a first touch?’ Roy had him. It wasn’t the sort of remark a kid would make to a World Cup captain but it was a good one and it was audible to the whole squad.”

Quinn makes no mention of the two protagonists squaring up to each other and no mention of anyone having to physically separate the two.


Mick McCarthy was a 33 year old seasoned professional near the end of his career. His no-nonsense approach would have been severely tested by this young player that not only kept the majority of the squad members waiting but wasn’t even apologetic. Far from expressing regret Keane was belligerent and disrespectful to the Irish manager, Jack Charlton (although Quinn said that Charlton had already left for the airport). It’s easy to imagine McCarthy blowing his top.

By his own admission Roy Keane was “merry and giddy” which presumably is a euphemism for being very drunk. He was a 20 year old from a modest background, who was earning more money than he ever dreamt of, and on his first trip to America.

His season was finished so why not let rip? It is entirely possible that the reason that Keane’s account is so light on detail is because he was so drunk that all he can only really recall is that he had some kind of a row with McCarthy. According to Quinn it wasn’t even a row – it was a brief bad-tempered exchange.

It is another example of Roy Keane’s attitude that even when he is obviously in the wrong he is the one that emerges from the incident feeling slighted and the one left bearing a grudge.

NOTE: Unless stated otherwise all quotations are from:
Keane: The Autobiography; Roy Keane with Eamon Dunphy (2002); Michael Joseph Ltd

Niall Quinn Testimonial

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