“Martin will want to beat me, and I’ll want to beat Martin, that’s where the pride kicks in. You want to do well, I’m looking forward to it,” Roy told the assembled press in Cork City Hall yesterday.
The Martin is Martin O’Neill, Roy’s boss. The occasion isn’t a cup final or league decider but a tribute to Liam Miller, another Cork man who, like Keane wore the colours of Manchester United, Celtic, and Republic of Ireland before he passed away earlier this year at just 36 following a battle with cancer.
Fellow ex-pros from across those three teams will join Keane and O’Neill in putting on a tribute match for Miller in Turner’s Cross, where he played for Cork City.
The proceeds of the match between Keane’s Manchester United XI and O’Neill’s Celtic/Ireland XI — and a black tie dinner that night — will go to Miller’s family.
An attempt to hold the match at the much larger Páirc Uí Chaoimh was unsuccessful, but organising committee chairman Michael O’Flynn said it was always the intention to hold the occasion in Miller’s native Cork. He praised the contribution Manchester United, Celtic, Cork City FC and the FAI have made to putting the tribute together.
“It’s always nice for ex-players to get together as well, obviously we know we have to remember Liam, but it’s nice to get together with ex-teammates,” said Keane.
“I know Martin is looking forward to meeting some of the Irish lads, people like Robbie [Keane] and a few Celtic players as well, so we’re all looking forward to it. You talk about ex-players, you know the madness of it is a player’s pride kicks in when we get together so it should be a good battle.”
Keane will line out with fellow decorated veterans such as Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Denis Irwin, and Rio Ferdinand, and said his former teammates didn’t hesitate to answer the call.
“They’re all up for it, they all had a lot of time for Liam, huge respect for him. We’re looking forward to the occasion, it should be brilliant and obviously Liam and his family deserve it,” Keane said.
And how does he feel about lacing up the boots himself?
“I’m not sure how many minutes I’m going to have yet, I’ll have a look and see the pace of the game, but we have about 14 or 15 ex-United players committed and I’m trying to get two or three more in so we can at least maybe rotate, because I don’t think physically I’d be up to playing 90 minutes,” he said before allowing himself a wry smile.
But if I’m managing, obviously I can dictate how many minutes I get.
Tickets for the game will be on sale through Ticketmaster tomorrow at 10am. Tickets are €50 each and, due to the anticipated level of demand, a limit of four tickets per person will apply. The match takes place on Tuesday, September 25, at 3pm.