Roy Keane: My fears for future of Ireland
TWENTY five years to the day since an Ireland side beat Romania to reach the last eight of the World Cup finals, Roy Keane took to the stage at a charity event in Dublin last night, the current assistant manager of the national team admits it will be hard to uncover the players capable of getting Ireland back to that level.
With no international tournament to divert us this season, the restart of the Premier League in England months away and even a death of League of Ireland football due to the mid-season break, nostalgia and a sneaky, slihgt bleak, look to the future took hold in Dublin's Olympia Theatre last night, as Keane conducted a public interview with broadcaster Matt Cooper, in a fundraiser for the Barrettown Camps organisation.
A forthright Keane ran though his career, from the school of hard knocks in the League of Ireland which helped make him (Keane admitted that if he had gone to England as a 16-year old his career might not have panned out the way it didn't out as planned) to his move to Manchester United (Keane not proud of reneging on his agreement to join Blackburn from Nottingham Forest), missing out on the Champions League triumph in 1999 (he dismisses as media hype his own display in the semi-final win over Juventus) and his managerial career (he regrets that Keane the manager lacked the patience he had as a player).
But Keane, wearing the hat of Ireland assistant manager, admits that sourcing top-class players for the national tram is tough, in contrast to the heady days of 1990 when Ireland were in the top ten of the world.
"There is a still a big scouting network in Ireland. But what's happened to young Irish players over the last few years, I don't know," Keane said.
"A lot of the players in 1990 were at big clubs, - United, Chelsea, Arsenal. Now, some of the players we have have been at United, the likes of Robbie Brady and Paul McShane, but it is a concern with these players not at the big clubs, we have one or two lads heading to League One and it's a big worry.
"Whatever clubs they are at - and ideally you want then a Premier League clubs - but you want them to be playing every week.
"A lot of our lads - and we suffer on the international stage due to this - are in the Championship, some of them are not even regulars in the Championship.
"But we can't make excises for Irish or English players not getting a chance at Premier League clubs, if you are good enough and hungry, you just have to deal with that, you have to roll your sleeves up and get on with it.
"We don't have any Irish players at United now but it's not just at Man U, it's the Arsenals. Before we had Andy Townsend, we had players at Celtic and it's frightening to think that our players are not competing.
"Ok, we had John O'Shea at United and he's at Sunderland now at Man U, but it's a big problem and it's not a quick fix. We have some good young players at Man City but will they get into the first team there?"
Keane defended the current side in the wake of their poor displays in the Euro 2016 campaign and said that once he gets effort from the players, he can ask for little more.
The former Ireland captain again defended his role in the saga of Saipan in 2002 but was keen to downplay his own role in the success of United winning through to the Champions League final in 1999 - Keane picked up a booking in the semi-final win over Juventus and missed the final.
"It was all exaggerated, all I did was score a goal," he says.
"Watch the game back, I did ok, just watch the game back. That was the way I played, I played on the edge, after the game I thought I 'we will get back here again, but we didn't.
"It was one of those things, Scholse missed out as well.
"And the semi-finals hurt me more, Leverkusen and Dortmund.
"Ok, I didn't feel great on the night of the final but I was injured for the final in 1999 anyway and people forget that, I was out for 2-3 months anyway with my ankle," added Keane.
Looking back to his own playing days, from the viewpoint of social media in 2015 and the spotlight that falls on players, Keane knows where he would have ended up if there had been camera phones in the early 1990s.
"I would be in prison if they had that in my day," he joked.
"It wasn't too bad when I was at Forest, the worst scenario now is the phones and people wanting pictures
"I never went looking for publicity, If I went into one or two bars in Cork I wouldn't be thinking 'I need to watch myself.
"It's hard now, because someone saw you 10 years ago they think you owe them."
Keane admitted some regret over the fact that he never played outside of the UK.
"Juventus were very keen to sign me, and I could have gone there," he says.
"My big regret is that I didn't go to Bayern Munich, I could have had a very good deal there and they were very keen, but I probably didn't realise at the time how big a club they were.
"Later on, I could have gone to Real Madrid and I am glad I didn't go as I was having injuries at the time, I would have hated to go to Real Madrid and be a squad player, it's no use being a squad player, you need to go and play," added Keane.
Keane admits that he still has a fondness, of sorts, for the Old Trafford club.
"I wasn't evnm a Man U fan when I was playing for them. I was more of a Spurs fan, God knows where they came from," he said.
"I stilll have a soft spot for Spurs, from the days of Hoddle and Clive Allen.
"If United lost to Liverpool I wouldn't be cryring myself to sleep.
"You could ask me about Celtic and Forest as well, when I stopped playing I made that break, I didn't hold on to past memories. If United were playing Liverpool I would prefer United to win."
*Roy Keane was speaking at the Olympia Theatre last night in the first of a series of Barretstown Talks public interviews to raise funds for the Barretstown Camps. Barretsown relies on donations to carry on their activities. http://www.barretstown.org.