Roy Keane speaks out on his infamous fall out with Mick McCarthy at the 2002 World Cup… claiming ‘rubbish’ reports about his lack of commitment came from the ex-Ireland boss being ‘in bed with all the writers’

Roy Keane has rubbished claims that he was uncommitted to Ireland in light of his quarrel with Mick McCarthy which saw him sent home before the 2002 World Cup.

The fractious relationship between the pair lingered from their playing careers and Keane revealed he did not ‘respect’ McCarthy as a manager. 

For a seemingly innucuous pre-World Cup training week in Saipan, Keane was irate when equipment such as footballs and kit was not there and the surface was too hard. 

Now he says manager McCarthy was ‘in bed with the Irish media’ and accused him of low standards as he seeks to challenge the narrative that he lacked dedication to the cause. 

He told the Stick to Football podcast: ‘The hangups I had with Ireland had gone on for many years about the way we prepared for games. The frustration from me came to our approach to matches, our training gear, and it came to a head.

Roy Keane grew frustrated with Mick McCarthy’s reign and ‘unacceptable’ preparation 

In one of Irish sport's most famous moments, Keane was sent home from the 2002 World Cup

In one of Irish sport’s most famous moments, Keane was sent home from the 2002 World Cup 

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‘The tipping point was the 2002 World Cup. I showed my frustration, but that doesn’t mean to say I wouldn’t turn up and do the business in a game. People missed the point with me leaving the World Cup.

‘There’s always been question marks about my commitment to playing for Ireland from the media – I missed one game. The manager felt he wanted to bring that game up in front of a group of players.

‘We qualified months in advance – if that happened with England, France, Germany, and there was no training gear, no footballs, no bibs, you’d be a laughing stock. But for some reason, when it was Ireland… I’d had enough of that. I had my debate with Mick – I said this is unacceptable.

‘I had media commitments, and I said one or two things that I wasn’t happy with. Mick McCarthy was very much in bed with the Irish media – which is another story. Mick also questioned me then – I’d been asked by a reporter if I respected Mick, and I said no, I didn’t. 

‘I told the reporter that it was private, and that was it. Word got back to Mick, and in the meeting, I said in front of the lads that I didn’t respect him, after the accusations about me missing the game. Just because I didn’t respect him, didn’t mean I wasn’t going to try.

‘Mick pulled me to the side and said ‘if you don’t respect me, how can you play for me?’ I thought that I wasn’t playing for him –,I was playing for my country. But I said to him “alright, I won’t [play].” I walked out of the team meeting – no regrets about it.’

Keane had long had gripes with how the Ireland national team was run and says he has 'no regrets' regarding his fall-out with McCarthy

Keane had long had gripes with how the Ireland national team was run and says he has ‘no regrets’ regarding his fall-out with McCarthy

According to Irish media at the time, Keane was understood to have told McCarthy: ‘Mick, you’re a liar… you’re a f****** w*****. 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.

McCarthy claimed that he had taken the squad to Saipan for a ‘holiday’ and that preparations would begin in earnest when the touched down in Japan. 

Sending Keane home from Ireland’s third-ever World Cup was a decision that divided the nation. 

While captain of the side, Keane challenged not only McCarthy but also former manager Jack Charlton and the Football Association of Ireland. 

He had consistent gripes about their training, travel arrangements, diet, and strategy.

Ireland went on to finish second in their group but were knocked out in the last 16 by Spain.  

He said that before one match against the Netherlands, pizza was laid on as the cuisine

He said that before one match against the Netherlands, pizza was laid on as the cuisine 

Keane continued with Stick to Football: ‘I never went down the road of judging people, just because I started looking after my body a bit more. It doesn’t mean I didn’t go out or would sit there and judge people for having a few pints. 

‘What I did want from the group of people at Ireland was progress – and when Mick McCarthy got the job, he came to my house in Manchester. I told him we had to do things properly. We played Holland away, had a training session at the stadium. The night before the match, I was looking for food and there was a bit of pizza!

‘People always had in their head that I was never really committed to the cause, rubbish that people were writing. 

‘Mick was in bed with all these guys anyway – the same people writing stuff about me, Mick was enjoying their company and writing books for them. There was a lot going on in the background – but no regrets.’


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Roy Keane was speaking on the Stick to Football podcast, brought to you by Sky Bet.