Some news for you: we now celebrate nineteenth anniversaries.
It was on this day, May 23rd, in 2002 that a whole generation of Irish people finally found out what it was like to be ideologically opposed on something. Having never had the kind of bipartisan politics that has dominated British and American politics (you know, except for the whole Civil War thing - Ed.), the question as to whether you were on Mick's side or Roy's became the closest we've had to Whigs and Tories.
So in the aftermath of Keane's walkout/being sent home, the country lost the run of itself. Hysteria was general all over Ireland, and here we remember a few of the mad details that you may have slipped your mind....
The surreal musical prelude
This is from Shay Given's autobiography, Any Given Saturday.
It's 7.30pm on Thursday, May 23, 2002. In the ballroom of the Hyatt Regency on the tiny island of Saipan, Gary Kelly, being insane, is up for the craic.
He [Roy Keane] turns to Kev [Kilbane] and says, "It's going to go off tonight." Gary Kelly doesn't know what's going on through. "C'mon, get in here!"
The Hyatt Regency has an in-house band playing in the next room and Gary wants to have a bit of fun. "C'mon, get in here" he shouts again at the band, inviting them into the plush surroundings that have become our makeshift canteen. They march in with their grass skirts and ukuleles and start performing. Next thing, we're all up on the tables taking the piss, having a dance to this band who were loving it.
A moment or so later, Mick walks in the door, stands very respectfully while the band finishes Stand By Me, and then politely asks them to leave. They shuffle out the door. Mick asks for a bit of quiet, takes out a copy of The Irish Times, looks Roy Keane in the eye and says, "Roy, care to explain this?"
How Will Smith made things worse
Keane, already roiling over the criticism of his missing Niall Quinn's testimonial before the World Cup, he decided to watch Will Smith's portrayal of Muhammad Ali on his flight to Tokyo. This had the effect of hardening Keane's stance:
They’re all urging him to give in. Take the draft. You won’t have to fight. Just go through the motions, play the game, screw the things you believe in. Ali resists them all. I’m doing what I think is right. It matters. You don’t compromise on your principles. Watching this is very moving. I hadn’t known this about Ali. Something in this scene strikes a chord with me. Don’t put up with shit. I’m not fighting a white man’s war. It’s an inspiring notion, a demonstration of conviction that I understand very clearly and I relate to my own life. Don’t compromise the things you believe in.
Well that turned out well, didn't it?
The difficulty in following the Tommie Gorman interview from Japan
With most of the important figures - and the assembled Irish soccer journalists - on the other side of the world, Keane sat down for the famous interview with RTE's Tommie Gorman. These days being the last vestiges of the dark ages, it was all pretty difficult to follow it, with the hacks ultimately gathering around to listen to a relative of one of the journalists holding their end of the phone up to the TV.
The t-shirts spotted as United faced Shels later that summer
United pitched up at Tolka Park for a pre-season friendly in July, which was Keane's first return to Ireland since Saipan. He was widely cheered, although a few Mick loyalists turned up to add a smattering of boos. There were a couple of interesting t-shirts on view, inspired by Saipan. One t-shirt twinned images of Michael Collins and Keane beneath the slogan, "Two famous Cork leaders both shot in the back" was on sale while another mocked up the Proclamation with the words of Keane's diatribe against McCarthy.
United won 5-0.
Niall Quinn's second consecutive failure at mediation
As Keane was giving the interview to Gorman, Niall Quinn was working behind the scenes with Michael Kennedy, their mutual representative, to orchestrate a return for Keane. Alas, the FAI released a statement drafted by the players supporting McCarthy as soon as they got it, rather than wait until after McCarthy's press conference later that day, torpedoing Quinn and Kennedy's best efforts.
When Sunderland met Manchester United in the Premier League the following September, Quinn arranged a public show of forgiveness, but it sadly went awry.
Keane and Jason McAteer had a kind of pitched battle throughout, and after Keane avoided a red card for a supposed elbow in the first half, he was sent off by Uriah Rennie for elbowing McAteer later in the game. Quinn had organised a post-match handshake with Keane in the glare of the cameras after the game, and now faced with the prospect of Keane not being on the field as the final whistle blew, chased after Keane in a panic as he went down the tunnel.
Sadly, nobody informed Alex Ferguson of this arrangement, and he lashed out at Quinn afterward, calling him a "hypocrite".
I, Keano gets the Saipan treatment
"He came, he saw, he went home" went the slogan for I, Keano, the musical inspired by Saipan and Ancient Rome. Sadly, this did too good a job of telling the story, as Mario Rosenstock, who played Keane, left the production in 2005.
Eamon Dunphy's finest hour
With Keane flirting with Brian Kerr's invite to return, Prime Time invited Eamon Dunphy, Peter Byrne and, eh, Irish superfan Alan Hunter to debate the merits of a potential return. When Hunter said that a potential return was so dangerous as to warrant a referendum.
Eamo had the appropriate response.