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Colin Healy - Saipan's Forgotten Victim
It is some what ironic that the first casualty of the Saipan incident was Cork man Colin Healy. It is ironic because Roy Keane loves all things Cork yet it was Healy who suffered as Keane dithered over his decision to stay in or leave Saipan and the 2002 World Cup finals. Healy had been in serious contention for selection for the Irish World Cup squad for Japan and South Korea. At the time Healy, from Ballincollig in Cork, was a young Glasgow Celtic midfield player.
He had earned his first Republic of Ireland cap on 13 February 2002 in a friendly match at Lansdowne Road (renamed the Aviva Stadium) in a 2-0 win over Russia. He won a further two caps in the following March and April in victories over Denmark and the USA.
Healy had impressed Mick McCarthy to such and extent that he teetered on the cusp of selection for the Irish World Cup squad. When the squad was announced his lack of experience counted against him as he had only played in three friendly matches [Page 127].
On Tuesday evening, 21 May 2002, Roy Keane dropped his first bombshell in Saipan when he met with Mick McCarthy to announce that he was leaving the Republic of Ireland soccer squad to go home. He was adamant that he would not change his mind.
Mick McCarthy Contacts Colin Healy
The FIFA deadline for registration of the 23 players to compete in the World Cup was the next morning - 22 May 2002. In the belief that Roy Keane would not change his mind Mick McCarthy rang Colin Healy to put him on standby to travel to Saipan. In his book McCarthy said that he did not tell Healy why, but that he should be ready to travel.
McCarthy contacted him on his mobile phone. The line was poor but, "He gets the drift, something has happened and he should be ready to come out to Japan and join the World Cup squad."[Page 166]. Having narrowly missed out when the initial squad the 22 year old Healy must have been overjoyed at the prospect of taking some part in the World Cup.
Roy Keane Flip Flops
Later that evening, following a conversation with Irish physio Mick Byrne, Roy Keane changed his mind and now he wanted to stay. McCarthy and Byrne return to Keane's room. Upon hearing that fellow Corkman had been put on standby Keane became agitated and decided that he would stick with his original decision. At the end of the ensuing heated conversation McCarthy asked Keane to think about it and then make a final decision. A while later Keane went to Mick Byrne's room (according to Keane's autobiography - Page 261) or Mick McCarthy's room (according McCarthy's Diary - Page 167) and confirmed that he wanted to go home.
The next morning Manchester United's Roy Keane has changed his mind again and the FAI fax to FIFA confirming the Republic of Ireland World Cup squad members was sent with the name Roy Keane on it and not Colin Healy. He didn't know it at the time but Healy's brief World Cup dream that began on a dodgy mobile phone connection from Saipan to Ballincollig, County Cork evaporated down a fax line from Saipan to Japan.
Colin Healy's World Cup Dream Ends
There is one further reference to Healy in McCarthy's World Cup diary. It is a passing reference that confirms that he had spoken to Healy to give him the bad news.[Page 170]. Unfortunately McCarthy doesn't expand any further so we don't get any insight into how Colin Healy reacted. Subsequent newspaper reports stated that McCarthy invited Healy to join the Irish squad but Healy declined because he there was no possibility that he could take part in the tournament. Forgotten by most, Colin Healy was perhaps the first casualty of the Irish soccer civil war that was Saipan.
Colin Healy Signs for Ipswich Town
Healy went on to win 13 caps for the Republic of Ireland including nine friendly internationals. He also played in four 2004 Euro Championship qualifiers in 2002 and 2003. His last appearance for Ireland was a 2-0 loss in Basel to Switzerland in October 2003. In a strange twist of fate Colin Healy signed for Roy Keane's Ipswich Town from Cork City on 24 July 2009.
NOTE: Unless stated
otherwise all quotations are from:
Triggs - The Autobiography of Roy Keane's Dog
Ireland at 2002 World Cup Finals - Irish 2002 World Cup Squad - Irish Group Matches
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