April 22, 2024

Roy Keane’s Saipan Tirade at Mick McCarthy


There appears to be general consensus that what occurred at the World Cup Irish soccer squad meeting in Saipan in May 2002 was momentous and unprecedented. There has never been anything quite like Roy Keane’s verbal onslaught directed at the Irish manager Mick McCarthy. It was the culmination of tumultuous period for the Irish squad on Saipan. For a number of reasons Roy Keane had arrived in Saipan in an irritable state. When issues emerged relating to missing training gear and the poor quality of the training pitch Keane was near boiling point. When the coaching staff withstood the Irish captain’s insistence that goalkeepers should be made available for a training match he quit the Irish World Cup squad.

Against his own better judgement, Keane’s relationship with Alex Ferguson and discussions with his advisor Michael Kennedy, persuaded him to change his mind. In face to face meetings with Mick McCarthy Keane declined to take the opportunity to tell his Irish manager what were the real issues behind his decision to leave Saipan. Nor did he speak directly to McCarthy to confirm that he had decided to stay. As members of the media were aware of Keane’s flip-flopping McCarthy asked Keane what reason should he give to the press. Keane told his manager to say that it was personal reasons. Following the Irish captain’s wishes, that’s what McCarthy told the press. After training that day Roy Keane conducted the infamous Tom Humphries interview and the Paul Kimmage interview. In these interviews Keane complained bitterly about the many aspects of the Republic of Ireland preparations for the World Cup.

He also suggested that the other players in the squad didn’t have the same ambitions as he had. There were no references to personal problems. Mick McCarthy was given a copy of the Keane Humphries Interview by Philip Greene of the Irish Independent. An angry Irish manager called a squad meeting for 7:30 that evening.

That was the immediate background to the the Roy Keane tirade. At the meeting there was very little by way of preamble and McCarthy quickly got on to the matter of the Irish Times interview. Keane said that McCarthy produced a copy of the interview from behind his back like “Paul Daniels”. In Keane’s autobiography and in subsequent interviews Keane suggests that there was a conspiracy to bait him. This is not supported by other eyewitnesses that were present in the Hyatt Regency hotel that evening. Other players such as Matt Holland said that they believed that the meeting had been called to discuss travel arrangements. McCarthy openly carried the a copy of the interview into the meeting and asked Keane directly to account for his comments in the interview.

There is general agreement about what ensued. Keane’s tirade was laden down with foul mouthed abuse that spewed out of him with venomous intent. And it wasn’t just a momentary angry rant. It was a sustained outburst that seems to have shocked and surprised all those present. According to MCarthy’s version his rant lasted eight minutes. “I am every expletive imaginable from c to w … I have never seen any human being act like this before … He is delirious.”

Matt Holland’s Saipan column said that Keane, “launched an abusive attack on the manager … most of the invective and appalling language coming from the player. It was extraordinary to listen to, and like the rest of the squad I was stunned”. Holland said that when Keane stormed out of the room he left “behind 22 shocked team-mates.”

Jason McAteer’s Saipan diary said “I do not understand why Roy was so angry. There was no justification for the way that he reacted tonight. I’m not going to repeat what he said … but he was way offside. Mick had no option but to send him home.”

Niall Quinn’s version described it as the “… most surgical slaughtering I’ve ever heard… Spineless … Useless … Stupid … Incompetent … Conman … We’re all mesmerised. For ten minutes it goes on. Mick is knocked back on his heels, visibly taken aback … I think he came in here to put things to bed, to say to Roy that in future we keep things in-house and now let’s move on … I wonder why one of us didn’t just stand in front of Roy and tell him he was out of order.”

In an interview subsequent to the Saipan incident even Roy Keane admitted that “… I agree that Mick had to send me home. A player cannot speak to a manager like that and continue to work under him. Of that charge, I am guilty. I have never called Sir Alex Ferguson anything of the kind. We have had our arguments, of course, but I would not be a Manchester United player today if I had ever spoken to him like that.”

The only major disagreement is about what precisely triggered Keane’s Saipan tirade. Keane said that he was calm right up until McCarthy accused him of faking injury for the second World Cup Iran play-off match. Then he snapped. McCarthy doesn’t use that expression in his account but he does say the he did ask Keane why he “…he missed the biggest game of all our international careers with Ireland … why he pulled out of the trip to Iran … just hours after telling me that he was going. That is the final straw.” McCarthy said that it was at this point that Keane began his eight minute rant.

According to Niall Quinn’s account of events, Keane began his tirade as soon as McCarthy “unfurled” the Humphries interview and began to ask the Irish captain about it’s contents. Quinn says that it was at this point that Keane began his surgical slaughtering that lasted ten minutes. It was only in the last few seconds before Keane stormed out that McCarthy mentioned the Iran game and he did not accuse Keane of faking injury. “Later people will present this exchange as being a central part of the whole thing … it wasn’t like that … nobody should be judgemental about what happened in the last thirty seconds of this débâcle.”

None of the other accounts refer to what precisely set Keane off however if McCarthy had made such a blunt accusation about faking injury and if it was the trigger for Keane’s eruption then it is reasonable to conclude that at least one of the other accounts would include some reference to it. They don’t.

The insinuation of faking injury was, perhaps, in the question posed by Irish manage but he did not make the accusation that Keane believes he heard. The over-the-top reaction by Roy Keane of Manchester United is curious. After all he did play a full 90 minutes against Leicester City just two days after the Iran match and then followed that up with two tough matches against Bayern Munich and Arsenal in the next seven days without any recurrence of his injury.

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

Reaction of Irish Players to Saipan Incident

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