Martin O'Neill leaps to 'brilliant' Roy Keane's defence after latest snub from Fergie
REPUBLIC of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill has hailed Roy Keane as "quite brilliant".
The Irish boss paid tribute to his assistant manager by admitting that accompanying Keane to his native Cork was "like John the Baptist who is come to pave the way for the great redeemer".
His comments came amid a furore over the decision by Alex Ferguson to omit Keane (43), his former captain, from a list of players he had managed in his 27 years at Manchester United who he judged to be world class.
The omission came in his latest biography.
Ferguson only listed Eric Cantona, Ryan Giggs, Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Scholes as world class players to have served him - and blatantly ignored the Irish midfielder who he once credited with United's domination of the 1990s.
But Keane yesterday steadfastly refused to be drawn into the latest controversy between the duo following their infamous falling out.
Attending the opening of a new pain management suite at Marymount Hospice in Cork, the former Nottingham Forest, Manchester United and Glasgow Celtic star refused all comment to the assembled media.
"Not today lads, thanks," he repeatedly said.
But O'Neill was glowing in his tribute to the Cork midfielder: "I actually feel a bit of an intruder here today because I have arrived down here in Cork which, as we all know, belongs to Mr Keane.
"It is very special to be here with Roy. I am now going to invite Roy up to open and close some shop in Kilrea (his Derry birthplace) so that people will actually know there that I am quite famous."
He described his No 2 as "quite brilliant".
Keane, in particular, received a hero's welcome at Marymount with medical director, Dr John Brown, a keen football fan, describing the former Cobh Ramblers player as "world class."
Sr Augustine, a Sisters of Mercy nun who is in her late 80s, left the footballer speechless by giving him a hug in front of the assembled dignitaries.
The former Marymount fundraising director described the Mayfield-born star as "our hero."
Keane, over an 18-year career, starred for Cobh Ramblers, Nottingham Forest, Manchester United, Glasgow Celtic and Ireland. In the 1990s he spearheaded Manchester United's remarkable dominance of English football and won seven Premiership titles, five FA Cups and the 1999 Champions League though he missed the final through suspension.