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Roy Keane and the Significance of his Native Cork
"When people ask me where I'm from, I always say Cork, never Ireland. It's always Cork first and Ireland second"
This quote from Roy Keane in an RTE documentary, Have Boots, Will Travel, says it all about Keane's relationship with his country. It also is very instructive about his relationship with the rest of the World in general. Very early on in his autobiography [Page 2] he reveals an antipathy towards anyone not from Cork and he states that "I am inordinately proud of my roots." Roy Keane was born at 88 Ballinderry Park in a north Cork suburb called Mayfield. In this working class environment Keane was taught that he was "Irish by birth: Cork by the grace of God" and that "...any poor fool not blessed by being born in the Rebel County" was to be laughed at and scorned. In addition Keane seems to have had a particular dislike of all things Dublin from an early age.
Roy Keane - Victim of a Pro-Dublin Bias?
It is clear from Roy Keane's autobiography [Pages 8, 9 & 10] that he blames a pro-Dublin bias for his failure to break into English football at an earlier age. Keane explained that he desperately wanted to play for Republic of Ireland under-15's during his Rockmount AFC days. Not because of the honour of representing his country but because it was a "...shop window for English club scouts." However Keane says that this was a "...prize...reserved for the stars on the Dublin Schoolboy scene." Despite his stated reservations Roy Keane and four of his Rockmount team mates were selected for trials in Dublin. They were elated but they had a," lingering doubt...concerned the perceived pro-Dublin bias for which the international selection committee was notorious, at least in Cork."
Keane was substituted with 15 minutes to go in the trial. He thought that the selectors had seen enough to be persuaded. When he wasn't picked for the final trial it was "...the worst disappointment of of my life". The fact that his four team mates from Rockmount made the final trial, and were subsequently selected for the international squad, does not seem to have disabused Keane of the notion of a pro-Dublin bias. The selection committee had picked four out of five players from the one Cork club for the Irish squad. Surely it is only through Keane's unique siege mentality or sense of victimhood that he could attribute the non-selection of one player out of five as bias. Is there no way that it could have been a simple case that the young Roy Keane had a poor trial and the selectors made their selections on the merits of what they saw in the trial? Not according to Roy and this seems to have negatively impacted upon his relationship with the Dublin-based FAI thereafter.
Keane Versus "those Dublin Bastards"
In a passage in his book [Page 19] he describes a match against Dublin side, Belvedere Boys, when he was playing for Cobh Ramblers. It was in February in 1990 and the venue was Fairview Park. He refers to the Dublin team beating Cobh "in typically arrogant style".
He went on to state that even when he knew the game was lost he'd "...show those Dublin bastards". This match was the one that ultimately led to his breakthrough into English football yet rather than rejoicing in this his recollections are clouded by his antagonism towards anything to do with Dublin.
Why "bastards" and how did he know it was a "typically arrogant style"? It begs the question; where did this distaste for all things Dublin come from?
During his time with Nottingham Forest he repeatedly felt the need to return to his family and friends in Cork. Somewhat surprisingly his manager at the time, Brian Clough, indulged Keane in this. In his autobiography Keane wondered if Clough hadn't been as understanding, and had prevented him from going home so often, would he have made it in English football. Keane said that these visits back to his family and friends in Cork recharged his emotional batteries.
Roy's Home from Home
Early in his career as an Irish international and as a Manchester United player he shared a room with fellow Cork man ("...albeit from the wrong side of the city.") Denis Irwin. It is clear from his book that this helped to create a little Cork oasis for Keane that cocooned him from the alien world outside. This was supplemented by a constant procession of his friends and family over to Manchester. It is also clear from his book that he eased his discomfort at being out of his Cork comfort zone by drinking to excess. It wasn't until he married his wife Theresa and his children were born that his yearning for his native Cork was eased to any great extent.
Charity Begins at Home
It is hardly a coincidence that when Roy Keane decided to add his public support to a charitable organisation he chose a Cork-based charity. To his great credit Roy has been a tremendous supporter of the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind based on the Model Farm Road in Cork. It's also probably not a coincidence that the charity involves dogs. "I loved my dogs, really adored them (and still do to this day)...Unlike people, dogs don't talk shite. They won't betray you..." [Page 11].
It is abundantly clear that first and foremost Roy Keane was a Cork man. His sense of Irishness was a poor second. This is not something that is unique to Roy and is reflected elsewhere in Irish sport however he seems to have taken it to an extreme. Keane's time with the Irish squad in Saipan would have been hell on earth for him. Thousands of miles from his wife and children, no friends in the Irish set up, miles away from Cork, no Cork men in the squad (Denis Irwin had retired and Colin Healy hadn't been picked by Irish football manager Mick McCarthy). It may not have been a decisive element in the Saipan incident but there is no doubt that his own personal sense of Corkness, as opposed to his Irishness, was a significant contributory factor.
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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