Keane made the admission in last night’s ITV4 documentary, Keane and Vieira — Best of Enemies.
Having defended his actions in subsequent years, he has now admitted there’s a sense of what might have been had he led Ireland into the 2002 showpiece in Japan and Korea.
Only last month, in his new book, Alex Ferguson detailed how he attempted to dissuade his skipper from taking nuclear action on the eve of the World Cup.
“You cannot afford to make your children go to school every day with this as the background to their lives,” was Fergie’s advice in a phonecall to Keane in Saipan. “Think of your family. It will be horrendous. Forget the World Cup finals. This will be the biggest story all summer.”
The relationship between the pair may have since broken down but their modern-day musings of the episode certainly chime.
“A lot of people were disappointed, particularly my family,” Keane confessed last night. “It would have been nice to have played. Mick did say to me that if you don’t respect me how can you play for me? And what I should have said was I wasn’t playing for him, I was playing for my country. But by then it had gone.”
The 42-year-old did stand by his criticisms of McCarthy and the FAI for the shoddy preparations on the Pacific Islands: “I just felt we needed to change our attitudes a little bit.
“That we at least prepare as well as the Germans and the Brazilians. Why not prepare as well as them? People always think I was looking for perfection; what I was looking for was progress.”