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Roy Keane is no ordinary player and he is what thousands of young soccer players aspire to becoming. He is an iconic sporting figure who commands more media attention than the Irish Government. Yet when his class of 1988 graduated from the Rockmount Soccer Academy, he was one of the lads left at home to mind the house as his team-mates jetted off to commence careers in England. His personal letters to English clubs in search of trials brought negative results and the fact that the Irish U15 International selectors had ignored him didn’t help either.

But the cream always rises to the top and when at last an Irish jersey was secured, at under sixteen level, his CV commanded more attention. He signed for Cobh Ramblers in preference to Cork City and his acceptance on the inaugural FAI/FÁS Soccer Apprenticeship Course in Dublin, helped enormously in his development.

Roy’s excellent displays with Cobh led to International honours at youth level. Reacting to information from George Scannell, a reliable Cork source, Notts Forest scout Noel McCabe, put him under the microscope and Roy was speedily dispatched to Nottingham. Keane did very well with Forest’s youths and manager Brian Clough, after watching the Corkman for just twenty minutes in reserve team action, immediately promoted him to the first team.

Roy was honoured by the U21 selectors for the European Qualifier against Turkey and was back in Cork in November 1990 for the crowd-pulling clash with England. He gained further caps in the return versus England and Poland. The downside to his rapid rise to fame, was his withdrawal by Forest manager Brian Clough from the Irish team which competed in the World Youth Championships in Portugal. However, the bigger stage beckoned and Roy made his senior debut in a friendly against Chile in May 1991.

Roy's grooming in International football continued on a side which included household names Paul McGrath, Andy Townsend, Kevin Moran, Ray Houghton, John Aldridge, David O’Leary, Steve Staunton and Packie Bonner. As a consequence Roy’s absence from a few early Internationals hardly raised eyebrows, but that all changed after his magnificent display against Spain in Seville. His performance forced Jack Charlton to reappraise his options in midfield. It was a measure of the impact of Keane’s arrival on the scene, that the manager was prepared to jettison old priorities to accommodate him. Roy went on to become one of Ireland’s greatest ever players, but also the most controversial.

His rash challenge on Alf Inge Haaland in 1997 resulted in Roy picking up a cruciate knee injury which sidelined him for almost a season. Roy was sent off for Ireland against Russia whilst captaining the side for the first time. He was banned by manager Mick McCarthy, after going AWOL. His relationship with Ireland’s supporters deteriorated and in the early stages of a World Cup qualifier against Iceland, he was booed by a section of the crowd.

Roy ignored the taunts to deliver a “Man of the Match” performance and by the end of the game the chant “Keano” “Keano” rang out throughout the stadium. His verbal onslaught on Man Utd’s prawn cocktail eating supporters, received huge press coverage and his criticism of the FAI, training facilities and travel arrangements, also made the headlines. His rantings about leg room on planes taking the International team to away fixtures, resulted in immediate reappraisal with the players now enjoying more luxurious seats.

Because of his competitive instincts, he has always been high risk in the context of injury and as a result, has missed many vital matches through injury including play-offs in Anfield, Brussels and Tehran. Unfortunately, on a few rare occasions, the reasons for his absences appeared less convincing, when in some instances he recovered to help Man Utd, just days after his Irish withdrawal - criticism usually being confined to the anti Man Utd element

Keane has a streak of tempered steel in his make-up and throughout the nineties he was nothing less than inspirational with Man Utd. His career reached its zenith in 1999, when he almost single handedly lifted them into the European Champions Cup final. He is now, unquestionably, rated as one of the best ever midfielders to play in the Premiership. He rose steadily towards a similar acceptance on the world stage, although Man Utd supporters claimed, he was already the best midfielder in the world.

There are a few better and more skilful players than Roy, but none more committed or as inspiring and his loss to, United and Ireland when he retired is incalculable. Most analysts refered to him as the focal point of the team, others the heartbeat and a few said ROY was the team. Roy is a tremendous self-analyst and he threw a damper on the celebrations after Ireland drew 2-2 with Holland in Amsterdam, when remarking that he didn’t know why everyone was overjoyed. “Those two dropped points could cost us yet,” he said, “we were leading 2-0 with 15 minutes left and we drew 2-2, that’s not right.” Roy was correct; the points dropped did prevent Ireland from winning the group outright, but fortunately, however, qualification was assured when Iran was defeated in the play-off. 

To analyse ROY KEANE is nigh impossible and several years after his club and country retirement, the personal appearance of the Cork soccer legend in any media studio worldwide, will still deliver an air of great expectation. There's more to this FAMOUS CORKMAN than just kicking a football.

Incorporating ROY KEANE into our CORK HALL OF FAME Collection was never going to be dicussed. There's a few Corkonians where we can apply that matter and most Corkonians know who these legends really are across all sports codes, Cork Heritage and Music Heritage.


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