May 25, 2024

Roy Keane’s Version of the Saipan Incident

The following Account is taken from Roy Keane’s Autobiography – Chapter 12

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 issues that so upset Keane i.e. the tedious travel, the unavailability of football 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 an analysis of how Roy Keane perceived that events unfolded on the Pacific island of Saipan in May 2002.

The Final Straw for Roy Keane

Tuesday 21 May 2002: According to Roy Keane the final straw was when there were no goalkeepers available for a game at the end of the training session. He’d had a heated exchange with goalkeeping coach Packie Bonner and goalkeeper Alan Kelly. Neither manager Mick McCarthy and coach Alan Evans intervened and Keane noted that couple of journalists were looking on.

Following a shower back in the hotel Keane bumped into Mick McCarthy in the corridor. Keane told McCarthy that he’d “…had enough…” and that he wanted to go home. McCarthy asked him what was the problem, was it him (McCarthy), was it the pitch? Keane said no and that it was just him – Keane himself. He’d had enough. McCarthy asked him what would he tell the press.

“Tell them … personal problems”. They shook hands and according to Keane they agreed that it shouldn’t “…go beyond the three of us…” – the third person being Eddie Corcoran who would make arrangements for Keane’s flight home.

Roy Keane Changes his Mind – Twice

A while later Irish team physio called to Keane’s hotel room on the seventh floor of the Hyatt Regency. The talked over Keane’s frustrations with the whole Irish set up but admitted that he should have bitten his tongue until after the World Cup finals. Byrne asked Keane to reconsider and after a while Keane agreed to stay with the squad. Byrne left Keane’s room and returned a couple of minutes later with Mick McCarthy.

Keane states that “McCarthy walked in quite aggressively.” McCarthy asked what was going on. Keane said that he wanted to stay. McCarthy replied that he had already contacted Keane’s fellow Corkman Colin Healy to come out as a replacement. “That was quick, I thought”. Keane then said he would stick by his original decision to go home. Following further discussion the Irish manager asked what did Keane want him to do. Keane replied “You make the decision”. According to Keane McCarthy didn’t say anything and left the room. Keane admits that he was “indecisive” at the time.

News of Keane’s Departure Leaks Out

Roy Keane went to Mick Byrne’s room to confirm that he was going and “That was it”. Some time after that Keane’s agent and solicitor, Michael Kennedy contacted Keane. He had heard the news from Alex Ferguson who was in Malta at the time. During their discussion Kennedy advised him to consider the consequences of leaving the Irish squad and urged him to ring Sir Alex. During a half hour conversation Ferguson agreed that the Irish squad preparation was a “disgrace” but Ferguson told Keane that he was entitled to change his mind.

Roy Keane Changes his Mind – Again

Just before 8am on the next morning Mick Byrne called to Keane’s room and tells him that he has three minutes to make up his mind. The final squad details had to be faxed to FIFA. Keane said “I’ll stay”.

Roy Keane Gives an Interview to Tom Humphries

Wednesday 22 May 2002: Following what Keane described as a disappointing training session Mick McCarthy called a meeting to tell the players to forget about the past and get on with the business in hand.

After this Keane met with Tom Humphries of the Irish Times. He had agreed to give him and Paul Kimmage of the Sunday Independent private interviews. He also spoke to Gabriel Egan of RTE Radio. Keane described these interviews as “straightforward” and “innocuous” yet in his autobiography he had the following to say after had decided to stay “Problem. I’d agreed to give two interviews to Tom Humphries and Paul Kimmage. They were two guys I had respect for.” Why was this a problem? Particularly as it appears that Keane actually set up these interviews according to the FAI’s Brendan McKenna, as quoted in Daire Whelan’s Who Stole Our Game?: The Fall and Fall of Irish Soccer. “He asked me would I set up a suitable time to do an interview with Paul Kimmage … and I did that.”

Later McKenna met Tom Humphries who said that he had “… half an arrangement to talk to Roy Keane, you know. But I told him that ‘Just to mark your card,’ I said ‘Roy has already arranged to talk to Paul Kimmage.’ ‘That won’t cut across me, I’ll do my own thing.’ Tom replied and off he went and arranged his own thing. When the interview appeared, the whole bomb went off.”

Roy Keane’s Irish Times Interview Published

Thursday 23 May 2003: Tom Humphries called Keane’s room at 7:45 am. He wanted to go over the interview one last time before it went to print in the Irish Times that day in Dublin. Keane gave the Humphries interview his imprimatur. Keane said that it expressed exactly what he felt. He believed that the Irish people deserved to know the truth. The interview was published in that day’s edition of the Irish Times.

Meltdown in Saipan

At 7:30pm after the players evening meal Mick McCarthy got the players and staff together for a meeting. According to Keane the Irish manager asked that if anyone was unhappy with anything that he’d like them to raise it with him. Keane says that he was cool and that his conscience was clear because he had spoken to McCarthy privately on the night that the squad had arrived. McCarthy continued that he had picked Saipan and if anyone was unhappy they should speak up. Then McCarthy said to Keane directly that he seemed to be unhappy. Keane asked why they weren’t discussing this in private. McCarthy replied that Keane had made it public as he pulled the Tom Humphries article from behind his back. Keane said the interview was fine. McCarthy then went “…on a roll..”. “You’ve gone against your team-mates. You never wanted to play for your country. You were supposed to go to Iran and you didn’t, you faked injury to get out of playing for your country.”

Keane responded by saying that McCarthy and Ferguson had discussed the Iran ties and that Keane hadn’t been fully fit for the Iran match in Dublin. McCarthy had thanked him for coming to Dublin and that 2-0 was a good result. “I was angry now, he was bending the truth.” Keane questioned his man-management ability and called McCarthy a liar.

Keane says that snapped and ten years of poor experiences with the Irish set up came to his mind. Most of all he recalled when McCarthy called to Keane’s house and promised that things would be done “…right this time.” Keane says he looked around at the players and staff for some support. No-one backed him. It didn’t matter Keane could not accept the “…worst accusation of all. That I had faked injury.”

“Your a f**king w****r. I didn’t rate you as a player, I don’t rate you as a manager, and I don’t rate you as a person. You’re a f**king w****r and you can stick your World Cup up your arse. I’ve got no respect for you.”

McCarthy replied that if Keane didn’t respect him then he couldn’t play for him. Keane left the room.

Keane’s autobiography reveals that at different stages during the evening that Niall Quinn, Stephen Staunton, Alan Kelly, Ian Harte, Jason McAteer, Gary Breen and David Connolly all visited his room to wish him well. Breen and Connolly said that they agreed with everything he had said about the facilities.

Keane states that he knew that many of the people in that room agreed with much, if not all, of what he had said but that he’d been “…hung out to dry for speaking their unspoken thoughts.”

Roy Keane was flying back to Manchester United at 6pm the next morning – his World Cup was over before it had even begun.

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

Mick McCarthy ‘s Version of Saipan Incident – Part 1

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