May 25 – On this day in Saipan 20 years ago: Politics, sport and how McCarthy shunned Bertie Ahern

May 25 – What the papers said

f a week is a long time in politics, then 24 hours must have been an eternity in the Saipan saga. The previous day’s papers suggested that Bertie Ahern would be taking a hands off approach to this episode. Evidently, there had been a dramatic change of policy for the Saturday morning editions.

“Mick McCarthy last night spurned an unprecedented request from Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to change his mind over the axing of Roy Keane,” read the lead story in the Irish Independent. Ahern had called FAI President Milo Corcoran who had functioned as the go-between. McCarthy asked Corcoran to tell Ahern it wouldn’t be happening.

“The Taoiseach was last night said to be still available to intercede in the row if called upon,” reported Frank Khan.

In sport, the headline piece was the Niall Quinn column carried elsewhere on these pages. Beyond that, there was a description of the team’s arrival in Japan and the preparations for a morning friendly with Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

Naturally enough, the weekend review sections responded to the main talking point and the think pieces stacked up. “Oh Roy, how did it have to end this way?” writes Ed Power, who joins the ranks of those attempting to psychoanalyse the man of the moment. “As the adulation mounted, and the pay cheques bloated, did you forget what it meant to be happy?”

Pat Stacey details his anger with a Sky News report on a billboard in Cork featuring Keane which had been tampered with by an irate fan who had cut out the local man’s face. “You should be ashamed of yourself,” rages Stacey.

This individual clearly wasn’t a regular in a pub visited by colour writer Becky Barrow, a piece from an English journalist carried in the Irish edition.

She writes: “As soon as I walked into Geaney’s, a small pub with pictures of Roy Keane and Irish flags painted on the windows, all six male customers stopped drinking their pints of Beamish. ‘He’s dead right you know,’ they said in unison, requiring little prompting.”

The Herald front page flirts with a non-Keane related front page, as they go to print after the game with Hiroshima. “Fresh crisis as Jason McAteer injured,” is the report. For a brief window, there’s focus on the football.

ELSEWHERE ON PAGE 1: Political correspondent Chris Glennon says Fine Gael is trying to avoid a leadership battle after a grim election performance earlier in the month which saw them lose 23 seats and spelled the end for Michael Noonan. Mayo TD Enda Kenny has strong credentials but it’s speculated that he may ‘be replaced as favourite by the party’s director of organisation Phil Hogan.’

ELSEWHERE IN SPORT: Munster’s Heineken Cup final with Leicester Tigers would have taken top billing on any other Saturday. Tony Ward is confident Munster can gain consolation for their heartbreaking loss to Northampton two years earlier. But this isn’t a good news week…

IN PICTURES

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25 May 2002; Ian Harte and Mark Kinsella, 12, of Republic of Ireland in action against Tatsuhiko Kubo of Sanfrecce Hiroshima during the friendly match between Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Republic of Ireland at Hamayama Park in Izumo, Japan. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile

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25 May 2002; Republic of Ireland captain Steve Staunton following the friendly match between Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Republic of Ireland at Hamayama Park in Izumo, Japan. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile

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25 May 2002; Jason McAteer of Republic of Ireland is attended to by Ciaran Murray, team’s chartered physiotherapist, physiotherapist Mick Byrne, right, and team doctor Martin Walsh during the friendly match between Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Republic of Ireland at Hamayama Park in Izumo, Japan. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile