Keane – Ireland vs Germany – 2002

20 07 2011

Dylan O’Neill shares a childhood memory of a fantastic moment in the history of Irish football. You can follow Dylan on Twitter @Dylan_Oh

I was seven at the time this World Cup rolled around. I’d been extremely excited to find out that my country was going to be competing at the World Cup when we edged past Iran in the play-off. Little did us Irish know that we were about to embark on something magical come June 2002.

We were dealt a serious blow even before the competition began as Roy Keane decided to exclude himself from the competition after he – as usual – overreacted to poor facilities on show at the Irish training camp in Saipan. Keane granted exclusive rights to an Irish times reporter, Tom Humphries, in which he told all. He claimed that their training pitch was “wrong”, having not been watered, as well as complaining they had no balls (actual footballs), and that the Irish were only given two goals to train with. He also mentioned that having no goalkeepers for a five-a-side was the last straw. He decided that he was leaving the squad in Saipan although reversed the decision a day later following conversations with Sir Alex Ferguson, his family and Michael Kennedy [his agent]. Reminiscing about Ferguson he said “He was on holidays but he’d seen the news. I had a good chat with him. He’s someone I respect. In football, he’s the only person I would listen to. We spoke about my family. I knew what he was saying but it helps when you get other people saying it. We’d discussed it before because of my injuries curtailing my international football. He said hang in there because of my family.”

The decision to stay was fantastic news for the Irish but the following day when Mick McCarthy questioned Keane over the article, Keane released a stinging verbal attack on McCarthy which effectively ended his international career. “Mick, you’re a liar… you’re a fucking wanker. I didn’t rate you as a player, I don’t rate you as a manager, and I don’t rate you as a person. You’re a fucking wanker and you can stick your World Cup up your arse. The only reason I have any dealings with you is that somehow you are the manager of my country! You can stick it up your bollocks.”

Keane left the Irish camp in late May and never returned. Pity.

Anyway, since the competition began in June, I had to be satisfied watching it from school. I was in 2nd class at the time and my classmates and I were roaring the Irish on in South Korea against Cameroon in the opening game. We held them to a creditable draw which wasn’t the worst result mind you, but it wasn’t what we needed going into the toughest group game vs Germany just 4 days later.

I’ll be honest with you, I actually don’t remember much about the game. I was seven, what do you expect? But, I do remember Klose’s opening goal for the Germans with just under twenty minutes gone. My colleagues began to panic and rightly so as Germany had destroyed Saudi Arabia the game previously 8-0 and we feared our outcome could be somewhat similar to their fate. Wave after wave after wave of German attack came but we held our own and were quite lucky to reach the break just a goal behind. Mick McCarthy decided to take off Jason McAteer and bring in the then Liverpool right-back Steve Finnan in hope of some renewed energy for the Irish.

The second half continued the way the first half had ended with the Germans constantly buzzing around the Irish box, somehow unable to find a second goal to kill off the tie. As the game wore on, chances for Ireland came few and far between but then it happened. A 92nd minute hopeful punt upfield by none other than Steven Finnan was flicked on by Niall Quinn and talisman Robbie Keane latched onto it, before steering his shot in off the post to grab Ireland a vital point which eventually saw them progress from the group.

The goal itself sparked massive celebrations in the classroom back home. I myself, vividly remember jumping around jubilantly, hugging anyone I could get my hands on – even kissing a fellow classmate. What could I say? It was a feeling I had never experienced before and I just had to get it all out of my system. Sure, prior to that I had only been a football fan for the best part of a year. But what a year that turned out to be.




2 responses

2 08 2011
Andrew Benbow

I don’t think any article has ever made me feel older than this one.

7 08 2011

That was a great game the Irish team played to their strengths Robbie Keane, Damien Duff, Steve Staunton, Steve Finnan, Jason McAteer Niall Quinn Shay Given……

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