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09th Aug 2023

Roy Keane cracks jokes with Johnny Sexton and Andy Farrell at Ireland training camp

Patrick McCarry

Roy Keane

The squad’s social committee is pulling out all the stops.

Inpho photographer Dan Sheridan has captured some fantastic images from Ireland’s training session at The Campus in Faro, today, featuring special guests Roy Keane, Niall Horan and Padraig Harrington.

The Ireland squad have a social committee that organises speakers and events for the players, and staff. They have already had mountain climber Kenton Cool and musician Greg Harrington in for visits, as well as an F1 driving simulator, but the latest guests take the biscuit.

Keane, donning a grey t-shirt and shades, cracked jokes with Johnny Sexton and Ireland head coach Andy Farrell, while Horan and Harrington also watched this morning’s training get-together and spoke with some of the players. Dave Kilcoyne, head of the social committee, and Tom O’Toole were also deep in conversation with Keane, at one point.

A few years back, the former Manchester United and Ireland captain was approached about paying the squad a visit, in London, in the lead-up to a Six Nations game. Johnny Sexton told us:

“We had Roy Keane with us ourselves… before we played England at Twickenham. We lost, so he didn’t have that big of an impact on us! But it was a brilliant couple of hours with him.

“He was incredibly generous with his time and his stories, but I was actually delegated to ask him questions on the night. I asked him one question and he spoke for two hours, so I was doing my best job, writing questions all week.

“I was researching and searching different avenues that I could probe him on and I asked one question and lads slagged the arse off me! But yeah, it was very special from that point of view.”

“I think [my first question] was that good that he was worried about what else was coming,” Sexton remarked. “So, he was just very, very smart in how he spoke for two hours because he knew there were brilliant questions coming!”

Roy KeaneRoy Keane paid Johnny Sexton and the Ireland squad a visit, back in 2020. (Credit: Getty & Sportsfile)

‘A brilliant couple of hours’ – Johnny Sexton on Roy Keane

Johnny Sexton is a Manchester United supporter and grew up watching Roy Keane as captain, and lifting trophies for the club. It is clear that the talk made an impact on him.

“It was probably very surreal sitting there listening to him,” Sexton admitted, when asked about that 2020 squad visit by Keane.

“He was very, very open with us. We asked him about different things about leadership, and about team culture and environments. We probably didn’t get the answers we thought we were going to get.

“What it came back to was… What he boiled down to was: effort, hard work, turning up day in, day out. He gave us very simple answers, but brilliant answers all the same.

“You sometimes get speakers in and they’ve got buzzwords and they talk about lots, but with him, it was just getting to the point. He wasn’t mad about all the talk about leadership groups and all this stuff, he was more saying that when he was at [Manchester] United, he just had good people around him and that drove standards. And they probably didn’t even know they were doing it.

“But it was a brilliant couple of hours. We could have sat there all night listening to him. And it’s the same when you watch him on TV now: you can’t turn him off when he’s on the screen.”

Niall Horan and Padraig Harrington were also on hand, at the training camp in Faro, to meet the lads, have some craic, share insights from their worlds and, for the golf fans in the group, get out for a few holes.

Ireland also had a training match against the Portuguese national side, too, that Sexton featured in. As it was not an official match, rather a run-out, it did not impact the three-match ban he received after facing an EPCR misconduct hearing.

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