You all know the story at this stage: it was the Summer of 2002, some of us were still getting used to the euro, Bertie was re-elected as leader and there was the small matter of a World Cup.

Expectations were high, not least the lofty expectations of one Roy Keane; captain, inspiration and driving force behind an Irish squad who held realistic hopes of a lengthy run after finding themselves in a group with a very average German side, an inconsistent Cameroon and the unknown Saudi Arabians.

But then Saipan and the FAI intervened. No training gear. Dangerously hard training pitches. Social gatherings with the press. Enough to make the blood of Mayfield's finest boil. And boil it certainly did as the iconic Manchester United midfielder was sent packing after a reportedly 'frank' exchange of views with manager Mick McCarthy, taking with him any hope we had of being serious contenders.

Having enjoyed a hugely successful run at The Olympia and beyond in 2005 and 2006, writers Arthur Mathews and Michael Nugent, this time joined by Paul Woodfull, update the story following a couple of key and coincidental developments over the past six months.

The trio remain true to the original, transporting events back to Roman times and thrusting the characters into the throes of war rather than a FIFA World Cup tournament.

This is done, at times, to hilarious and clever effect as war analogies easily translate to the football field and vice versa. The cast is particularly strong, with Macartacus (Dessie Gallagher) and Keano (Jamie Beamish) on top form with very funny and engaging portrayals/parodies of the two main characters. 

The often farcical and pathetic attempts of Quinness (Vincent Moran) and Packie Bonnerus (Paul McGlinchey) to keep Keano with the Legionnaires (Irish team) provide a lot of the best comedy moments, with McGlinchey's 'Danielesque' performance particularly eye-catching. 

The role of the media in Keane's eventual removal from the squad is excellently told by the calculated efforts of celebrated scribe Sanctimonius, superbly played by Nicholas Grenell. Sharon Sexton also deserves a mention as Quinness' wife, the aptly named Surfia, while Gary Cooke is typically assured as both Dunphia and Fergie, The Hairdryer God.

From the opening scene, the story develops at pace with timely lighting and sound effects providing additional drama to the growing sense of disaster. 

However, it is when the staples of all musicals come into play, namely song and dance, that our attention is most challenged as key lyrics and plot are regularly lost amongst the volume and commotion of the lively and well choreographed musical numbers. 

While unique versions of Bohemian Rhapsody and The Fields of Athenry find the mark, others fail to embellish proceedings and lead to confusion rather than clarity.

Although I regrettably missed the original,  I am assured that many of the clever one-liners are new and that the end has been altered following Keane's appointment as manager at Niall Quinn's Sunderland. 

However, an understated handshake with McCarthy, sorry Macartacus, aside, the end fails to inspire and you are left thinking so much more could have been done to ensure a more dramatic climax to an otherwise well told tale.

If you like football, comedy, singing and dancing, then there is much to be enjoyed here. But while I'm not convinced all four work well together on this occasion, there is certainly enough quality and substance on show to ensure even the most discernable of palates leaves relatively satisfied.
 
Shane Murray