It's Claimed That One Player Voted For Roy Keane To Return To Saipan In 2002

It's Claimed That One Player Voted For Roy Keane To Return To Saipan In 2002

A year after Saipan, when the news broke that Roy Keane was returning to the Ireland squad under the management of Brian Kerr, a man called Alan Hunter, the chairman of the Irish Football Supporters Association, demanded that his return be put to the people in a referendum.

This momentous call occurred on Prime Time in 2003. On RTE, he called for the government to intervene and actually put a question to the people asking whether Roy Keane should be allowed back in the Irish squad.

Who knows? Had the answer been in the negative, Bunreacht na hEireann might now contain an amendment barring Roy Keane from selection to the Irish football team.

Miriam O'Callaghan strained hard to prevent herself from laughing and just about succeeded. Eamon Dunphy, arguing opposite Hunter, made no effort to stop himself from laughing. Indeed, he made sure he was seen to laugh long and hard. He also succeeded.

While the Irish people were denied their say on the matter, we know that there was a vote on Roy Keane's re-admission to the squad in Saipan in 2002. The franchise was restricted to Keane's fellow international players.


With pressure coming on from home, and with the national conversation consumed with what Conor Cruise O'Brien called "the most extraordinary story he'd seen in 50 years of working in Irish newspapers", a frazzled and weary Mick McCarthy said he'd swallow whatever pride he had left and take back Roy if the players wanted it so.

As Jason McAteer revealed in his autobiography - 'Blood, Sweat and McAteer' - only one player voted for Roy's return. Well, one and a half. One other player put his hand up and then quickly drew it down again when he saw the intimidating majority lined up against his return.

Mick and the staff leave and Quinny takes the chair. He puts Mick's question to the floor. There are twenty two players in the room and when Niall asks who wants to bring him back, there's a silence. You can see the strain on lads' faces. They all have a different relationship with Roy - some good, some bad. Just two hands go up. One goes down pretty quickly.... The vote is twenty-one to one - We don't want him back.

Who was the player? Keane wrote in his Eamon Dunphy ghosted autobiography that Gary Breen and David Connolly came to his room and privately expressed some sympathy with what he'd been saying.

Niall Quinn said in that pained press conference on 28 May 2002 that "all 22 players voted unanimously to back him." But he also revealed that a younger player - revealed later to be David Connolly - came to his room and asked him how he'd feel if Roy came back. But Quinn asserted that Connolly later backed the manager in the row.

According to Joe Molloy, speaking on Off the Ball yesterday morning, it was either Mark Kinsella or Matt Holland who stood out from the crowd and voted for Roy's return.

Ironically, it was Kinsella who benefited the most from Saipan, as he told Owen Cowzer in the Sun a few years back.

 Then to go through Saipan... I’ve refused to speak about it because I’m the one who benefited. I played 48 times, 36 of those with Roy, my best games. All of a sudden I was in that triangle. Is he staying? Is he going? We came down one day and went to see a show and I was told he’d left. Come out of the show, he’s back. Finally, he went.

“I haven’t really delved too much into it, I had to get on with it. I ended up playing four games in a World Cup that I never expected.

Read more: 'Republic Of Ireland Are England Reserves And Northern Ireland Are England’s Reserves’ Reserves'



Conor Neville
Article written by
Perennial finalist in stand-up comedy competitions and former Contract Lawyer/ Coal Salesman with Corless, Corless and Sweeney

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