The Republic of Ireland national team have had many successful players throughout its history. Many of our native players have gone on to have successful careers abroad, mainly in the English league. It shows that our country can produce footballers that are more than capable of performing on the big stage for both club and country. Hopefully there will be many more Irish players who achieve lucrative careers for top teams in the coming years. One of the best known players to represent Ireland is Roy Keane. The Cork native went from Cobh Ramblers to the English league where he became one of the most successful midfielders in world football. Keane, of course, will be remembered by some Irish fans for leaving the 2002 World Cup but his quality on the pitch can’t be argued with. In this article, I will look back on the highs and lows of Roy Keane’s playing career.
Cobh Ramblers (1989-1990)
In 1989, Roy Keane started his playing career as an 18 year old with semi-professional side Cobh Ramblers. Keane was due to join Cork City but opted for Cobh as they offered him a place on a FAS course. This course allowed Keane to train like a professional for a year. He earned £30 a week which would increase to £40 if he made the Ramblers first team. He earned a bonus of £10 if his team won and £5 if they drew. Keane became a starter for Cobh Ramblers a few weeks after joining the club, his first start coming in a 2-0 victory against Kilkenny City in the Opel Cup on the 13th of August 1989. Keane’s League of Ireland First Division debut came against Bray Wanderers on the 5th of November 1989 where Cobh won 2-1. After impressing in the FAI Youth Cup the same season, in particular against Belvedere, Keane caught the eye of Nottingham Forest scouts. Keane was asked to travel to England for a trial at Forest where Brian Clough was manager and was subsequently signed after impressing the Forest boss. Overall, Keane played 29 games for Cobh, scoring 2 goals.
Keane was signed by Forest for a fee of £10,000 in July 1990. In the 1990-91 season, Keane earned his professional league debut against Liverpool where he performed impressively which led to him becoming a regular in their first team. Keane became a starter for his team by 1991 and scored his first professional goal in the same season against Sheffield United. By 1992, Keane was a key asset for Forest and was namedclub player of the year for the 92-93 season. Despite his best efforts, his team were relegated from the Premier League which led to many teams looking to sign the Irish man. Blackburn Rovers and Manchester United were the favourites to secure Keane’s signature. Overall, Keane appeared 64 times for Forest, scoring 14 goals.
Manchester United (1993-2005)
After a deal which was in place with Blackburn fell through, Alex Ferguson snapped Keane up for Manchester United in 1993 for a fee of £3.75 million, which was a British transfer record at the time. Keane became a regular starter in the 93-94 season and grabbed his first two goals for the club on his home debut against Sheffield United. That season, he won his first Premier League title and FA Cup. The next success for Keane came in the 95-96 season when he won the Premier league and FA Cup double again. Keane won a third league title for his club the following season and became Manchester United captain for the 97-98 campaign. The Cork native captained his side to the treble for the 98-99 season (Premier League, FA Cup, UEFA Champions League). This would be Keane’s most successful season. He signed a contract extension with United the following year and led his club to yet another league title. He was awarded the PFA player of the year for the 1999-2000 season. Throughout the early 2000’s Keane faced controversy due to incidents that occurred on and off the pitch. In 2001, Keane was suspended and fined for injuring Manchester City player Haland which ended the Norwegians career. Keane was further fined £150,000 and banned for five games by the English FA for comments on the incident in his autobiography which was released in 2002. Keane eventually became less aggressive on the pitch following his hip surgery in 2002 and helped his side win the league title for the 2002-2003 season. He was inducted into the English football Hall of Fame in 2004 and selected in the FIFA 100, a list of the greatest living footballers. Keane’s Manchester United career unexpectedly came to an end after he made controversial comments about his fellow team mates. This led to a falling out between him and Ferguson. Ultimately, he departed Manchester United in November 2005. Overall, Keane scored a total of 51 goals for Manchester United and made an impressive 469 appearances for the club.
Keane arrived at Scottish side, Celtic in January 2006. He won the Scottish Premier League and Scottish League Cup in his first and only season in Glasgow. Keane announced his retirement from professional football due to medical advice in June 2006. Roy Keane played 10 games for Celtic, scoring 1 goal.
International Career (1991-2005)
Roy Keane represented the Republic of Ireland national team from under 16 up to senior level. Keane made his senior debut under Jack Charlton in May 1991 and earned his first senior competitive cap in a European Qualifier against Poland in October 1991. Keane was a regular starter for Ireland’s World Cup qualifications between 1992 and 1993. He helped his team reach the 94 World Cup in the U.S.A. He played every game at the 94 World Cup and was named the best player of Ireland’s campaign. Keane missed a large portion of International games between 1995 and 1997 due to various injuries. He came back to captain the Irish side during the Euro 2000 qualifiers where Ireland narrowly missed out on qualification for the tournament after a play off with Turkey. He was instrumental in Ireland’s success in qualifying for the 2002 World Cup. He helped his side go undefeated in qualification and put in a number of Man of the Match performances. The events that unfolded in Saipan at the 2002 Japan World Cup will go down in Irish sporting history. Keane was sent home by Mick McCarthy after complaining publicly about the training facilities at Saipan. Keane was left out of the Irish squad until McCarthy’s resignation in November 2002. McCarthy’s replacement, Brian Kerr persuaded Keane to come back into the Irish panel. He made his return to International football in May 2004 against Romania. Keane was reinstated back into the Irish midfield for the 2006 World Cup Qualifiers. After failing to qualify for the tournament, Roy Keane announced his retirement from international football. Overall, Keane was capped 67 times for his senior national side, scoring 9 goals. Roy Keane certainly makes the list of the all time greatest Irish players. His ability and desire is unquestionable when it comes to performances on the pitch.
Roy Keane’s roll of honours as a player
7 time English Premier League winner
1 time UEFA Champions League winner
1 time Intercontinental Cup Winner
4 time FA Cup winner
4 time Community Shield winner
1 time Scottish Premier League winner
1 time Scottish League Cup winner
1 time PFA Player’s Player of the Year
1 time RTE Sports Person of the Year
2 time FAI Senior International Player of the Year