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19th Apr 2023

David Connolly recalls Roy Keane blunder in first team talk as a manager

Rory Fleming

David Connolly Roy Keane

Brought to you by William Hill.

The former Ireland striker recalled one particular moment of embarrassment for Roy Keane during his managerial stint at Sunderland.

In this week’s episode of our new podcast House of Football, we were joined by League of Ireland legend Alan Cawley and the former Republic of Ireland and Sunderland striker David Connolly.

Connolly recalled some fantastic tales from his 20-year professional career, including training alongside the prodigious Henrik Larsson at Feyenoord.

He also spoke about Roy Keane’s first team talk as a manager, which didn’t go to plan.

David Connolly recalls Roy Keane’s blunder in his first team talk as a manager.

Connolly played alongside Keane for Ireland. The Cork native then signed Connolly for Sunderland when he became manager in 2006.

The former Ireland striker, who earned 41 caps for his country, scored 13 goals in 39 league games for the Black Cats and remembers his time at the club fondly.

Connolly was also brave enough to correct Keane during his first team talk.

Keane stepped into the Sunderland dugout a few months after he retired from playing following an injury-plagued stint at Celtic.

Connolly had a front-row seat to the Manchester United legend’s first team talk as a manager ahead of a match against Derby County.

Keane made a memorable gaffe in the speech.

David Connolly Roy KeaneFormer Ireland striker David Connolly recalled his time playing under Roy Keane at Sunderland.

“My first team talk at Sunderland, we played Derby County away,” Keane said about the team talk.

“This was the first time I had spoken to a group of players. We’re in a hotel near Derby, I’m speaking to the players and thinking ‘I’ve got to get this right and win the players over’. You over analyse things sometimes in your head.

“I’m speaking about Derby and I go on about their goalkeeper for a bit long. I said ‘He’s not great on crosses, get into him, somebody nail him in the first few minutes’, I kept going on.

“There was a player in the background, David Connolly who was one of the strikers, who had his hand up down the back. I’m thinking ‘He hardly needs the toilet’.

“I keep going on and eventually, I go, ‘Dave, what is it?’ – You know this was my big moment.

“Then he goes: ‘You know that goalkeeper you keep going on about? Yeah, he was sold two weeks ago’.”

“I said ‘There you go, the scouts can’t do their jobs properly’. Everyone was dead relaxed after it and we won 2-1. You can talk about team talks, but you need these light moments. You can win players over.”

On House of Football, Connolly said that Keane reacted in the right way to being corrected and that the pair always got along.

“He took it in the right way”, the former Southampton striker said.

“The worst thing is he kept going on and on and the lads are thinking jeez what is he on about because the player wasn’t even there anymore!”

“I was kind of looking after him a little bit there. I knew their goalkeeper so I’d spoken to him during the week,” Connolly said about interrupting Keane.

“But, look, I got on with Roy like I got on with all the lads.

“He was obviously incredible but he would at times think are you pulling your weight, are you playing as well as everyone else, are we carrying you?

“You could tell he would have these thoughts, these ways in training of testing you and you could tell whether he thought you performed in training.”

Keane was not the only high-profile player with which Connolly shared an Irish dressing room though, with the striker name-checking the likes of Ian Harte, Denis Irwin, Gary Kelly, Shay Given and Steve Finnan.

“There were loads of players performing at the very highest level, but Roy was the Man United captain and a massive player”, said Connolly.

The former Feyenoord player also went on to discuss playing under Mick McCarthy, Ireland’s penalty kick heartbreak at the 2002 World Cup and the toughest defender he came up against in his playing days.

You can watch the rest of the episode here.

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