Roy Keane on the experience of being managed by Jack Charlton at USA 94
Eight years before Saipan, Roy Keane was having the craic at his first World Cup.
The Cork native was 22-years-old and had just won the double with Manchester United when he set off to the United States for the 1994 World Cup.
Surrounded by a host of senior stars, such as Packie Bonner, Ray Houghton, John Aldridge and Paul McGrath, Keane was part of a younger cohort that were a generation away from old-school football preparation.
At Italia 90, the Irish team often shared the same hotels as the travelling hordes of Irish fans and both Mick McCarthy and Frank Stapleton recalled, in their autobiographies, how there would be some sleepless nights as the party roiled on down in the hotel bar.
At USA 94, there was slightly more distance between the players and supporters but Roy Keane remembers how some members of the squad still got out for pints, in New York, ahead of games against Italy and Norway.
Keane joined Mark Pougatch and Ireland boss Martin O'Neill for a fascinating ITV World Cup podcast and, before he addressed the 2002 World Cup, shared some great tales about that tournament in the USA.
Before he set off for the States, Keane repeated a mantra to himself that would stay with him for years - "Let's not go over for the sing-song. Let's go there and do something!"
Focused as his was on driving Ireland on, and building on the quarter final Ireland reached at Italia 90, Keane still let off some steam on nights out with his teammates.
"When I say we were in the zone, when we played under Jack Charlton there was free time. We weren't just locked in our hotel up in some mountain.
"We were hitting the Irish bars on our nights off and we were enjoying the occasion but, as I said, in the back of you're mind, you're saying, 'We're professional footballers. We want to go over there and have some sort of impact'. Even though, as I said, we had a tough group."
"Jack always had a relaxed attitude," Keane added, "that when you were not training, you lads, you do what you want. A lot of lads were experienced players who had the balance right - went to have a few pints and went to relax.
"In America, at the time, there were great [down-time] options for us, especially in Orlando. We'd go to water-parks. Strangely enough, if you saw a player doing that now you'd say, 'That's a bit mad', but it was a great way to switch off. When you're going down a slide in Orlando, you're not thinking about a Mexican midfielder who is supposed to be playing against you.
"It was a great way to relax and chill out. And then Jack would say, back to the hotel - now I'm talking about three or four nights before a game - he'd say 'If you want to have a few pints, just take it easy'.
"You know, 10 or 12 pints and then go for it!"
Keane was clearly exaggerating here as Pougatch starts to laugh, but he then asked Keane if he could confirm an urban myth from USA 94.
POUGATCH: "But you did have a Guinness tap on your [hotel] floor?
KEANE: "Yeah, on our floor, which was pretty handy. But when I saw our lads go there for breakfast, it did concern me! Listen, I was the first in the bar; don't get me wrong. But that was the time, 1994. If you saw a team doing that now.... but we also had good players. Really good, experienced players that knew and always had the balance right. Honestly.
Keane notes how people often say to him, 'Oh, you like a bit of a sing-song'.
"When we had to work, we worked," he stated. "Don't be kidded on by that."
You can listen to the full chat here.
*Article first published in June 2018