Mick McCarthy has once again defended his sacking of Roy Keane in 2002 — insisting to this day ‘it was the right thing’ as Ireland manager.
Eleven years on from the episode in Saipan that resulted in Keane leaving the Ireland squad a week before the World Cup, the former Ireland skipper outlined last week for the first time his sense of regret at not playing at the showpiece.
McCarthy, currently in charge of Ipswich Town, seldom revisits the sequence of events on the Pacific island surrounding the blow-up between manager and skipper at the infamous meeting in the ballroom of the Hyatt Hotel.
Keane’s return to management as Martin O’Neill’s assistant, coupled with his contribution to a compelling ITV4 documentary with Patrick Vieira last week, has, however, brought that low point of his career back into sharp focus.
The spotlight, too, shone on McCarthy last month when he refused to comment in an Ipswich Town press conference on Keane’s FAI comeback, even allowing the occasion pass without congratulating his former nemesis.
Asked by BTSport about Saipan, the 54-year-old was more forthcoming.
“That [Keane being sent home] doesn’t define my life,” he admitted. “If it does define it, it was the right thing anyway.
“I said when it all kicked off at the time that I’d probably be walking down the street with my dog and flat cap and ferret in my pocket in Barnsley at 80 years old, and someone shouts, ‘Oh there’s that bloke who sent him home from the World Cup’.
“Not often does Sky turn up at an Ipswich press conference but they did this time because it was the Ireland story of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane getting the job. I’d already declined to talk about it to the radio guy and given him the same treatment but you couldn’t see it because it was the radio.
“Then this guy decided to ask me the same question and I thought if I start talking about it…it will only lead…so I didn’t talk about it.
“I just smiled at him. He got what he deserved because he kept badgering me for answers and I wasn’t going to give him any.”
When it was put to McCarthy that he could have handled that Saipan showdown differently, he was defiant.
“I dealt with it. It’s happened it’s done. It’s other people who are more interested in it than me.
“Our achievement [at the World Cup] is forgotten. If anything does gall me, it’s that.
“Probably some wise men say, ‘Well if it hadn’t happened we could have won it’. I’m not so sure. I think we did remarkably well. I’ve done other things, not just that.”
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