Nobody in Ireland will ever forget the 2002 World Cup in Japan and Korea. Scannal! revisits...
The Republic had qualified for their first major tournament in 8 years. The country was awash with colour in the build-up, the feel-good factor was in evidence and fans were spending thousands of Euro travelling to support the Boys in Green in the Far-East.
The team were based on the tiny, idyllic Pacific island of Saipan, for a bit of R&R, before the tournament began. Then we were hit with the biggest bombshell of all time in Irish sport: team captain and our most famous player Roy Keane was being sent home. What followed can only be described as madness.
Keane, McCarthy and Saipan was the only topic of conversation in the home, in the workplace and on the street. Why was he sent home? Who was to blame? Could it be resolved?
Roy Keane and Mick McCarthy had never seen eye to eye, but the average fan thought they could have put their differences behind them for the sake of the nation.
Everything came to a head when Keane gave an interview to the Irish Times which was printed in full, where he let his feelings be known about what he felt was the lack of ambition and organisation within the Irish set-up.
Mick McCarthy was extremely unhappy and called a team meeting where he brought up the topic of Keane's article. This was like a red rag to a bull. Keane is reputed to have vented his spleen in an attack which lasted ten minutes, as he told McCarthy what he really thought of him. With the backing of the senior players, the Irish manager had no option but to send Keane home.
Back home, the country was split down the middle. Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern was asked to get involved. Niall Quinn liaised from Japan with Keane's agent and his own agent, Michael Kennedy, hoping to find a compromise. Eventually, it looked like there was a chance Keane could come back into the squad, if he apologised.
The stage was set. Keane decided to give an exclusive interview to RTÉ and it was felt that he needed to give some concessions. He never did apologise however, and that was that. He would never play in another World Cup Finals.
The team performed admirably in the World Cup considering the circumstances but the damage had been done. After a couple of losses in the qualifiers for Euro 2004, Mick McCarthy resigned as Irish team manager. The chants of 'Keano, Keano' from the terraces during McCarthy's last game in charge may have helped him make up his mind. Those few days in Saipan in May 2002, will however, never be forgotten by Irish people.
Scannal looks back at the mayhem in Saipan. We analyse the relationship between Keane and McCarthy and look at the impact the incident had on the nation. We also look at the aftermath, the Genesis Report and the end of the McCarthy era.
Paul Kimmage, who was in Saipan working for the Sunday Independent at the time. Kimmage was asked by McCarthy to gather up other journalists for the press conference in which it was announced that Keane was being sent home. Kimmage was also close to some of the other players and gives an inside view into how they really felt.
Seán Bán Breathnach covered the World Cup for Raidío na Gaeltachta. He says that he will never forgive Keane for walking out on his manager, his team-mates and his country.
Aodán Ó Gallchóir is a former FAI Official and has been on many trips abroad with Irish squads over the years. He felt that the FAI deserved a lot of blame for the mess in Saipan.
Aidan Fitzmaurice is a soccer journalist with the Evening Herald. He talks about the emotions in Ireland during the Saipan incident, and that it was like the Civil War. You were on one side or the other, nobody was neutral.
This Scannal! was produced by Karen Rodgers for RTÉ Television. The reporter was Garry Mac Donncha.