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   28 May, 2002 | 1610 IST


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Irish players do not want Keane back

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Stephen Wood

Ireland's World Cup squad do not want disgraced former captain Roy Keane to return to their campaign, they said on Tuesday.

The players issued a statement to end any lingering hopes that Keane, who was sent home last week after a "slanging match" with manager Mick McCarthy at their training base in Saipan, might return.

"Regrettably, the manner of Roy's behaviour prior to his departure from Saipan and the comments attributed to him since have left the staff and players in no doubt that the interests of the squad are best served without Roy's presence," the statement said.

"The players bear no malice to Roy on a personal level and are looking forward to a successful World Cup campaign and the continued support of our loyal supporters both home and abroad."

The words will act as a huge vote of confidence for McCarthy, whose actions in dismissing Keane were criticised by some fans.

Earlier, after Keane told Irish television channel RTE on Monday that it was up to McCarthy to make the first moved towards reconciliation, McCarthy demanded a personal apology from the midfielder.

"I haven't had a phone call from Roy or heard from him at all," McCarthy was quoted as saying by Ireland spokesman Brendan McKenna.

Asked if he would take Keane back if the Manchester United player apologised for his outburst, McCarthy said: "That's just a hypothetical question."

He added: "This (issue) is very frustrating...I don't like it being conducted through the media.

"I know Roy has been on television, but he hasn't spoken to me or any of the squad. Everyone knows where I am.

"I want the best for Ireland and for all the players."

McCarthy, whose side face Cameroon in their group E opener in Niigata on Saturday, is waiting to hear directly from the midfielder.


McCarthy said he had not seen the television interview, only that he had heard "bits of it".

Reports say the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) were planning to fax a transcript of the interview to Ireland's team hotel at their training base in Izumo.

Keane, unhappy at his team's training facilities on the Pacific island of Saipan last week, launched a tirade of abuse at McCarthy in a meeting called to clear the air.

The 30-year-old is now back at home in England while behind-the-scenes moves take place in a desperate attempt to get him reinstated.

However, McCarthy has already insisted that he would consider his own position if Keane made a return to their World Cup squad.

Although he was unrepentant in the television interview, Keane said he understood that McCarthy had little choice but to send him home.

He also added that it would still mean a lot to him to represent his country at this year's finals in South Korea and Japan, which begin on Friday.

Another of Ireland's senior players, Niall Quinn, wrote in a column for the Guardian newspaper on Tuesday: "Roy's tirade of abuse last Thursday was a step too far...once it had finished and Roy had left the room I was the first person to speak.

"I asked if the situation was retrievable but even the greatest optimist on the planet would have known it wasn't. We the players knew that we had to back Mick McCarthy 100 per cent and that's what we're doing."

Ireland also face Germany and Saudi Arabia in group E.

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