By Mark Jones
Roy Keane is expected to be fit to captain Manchester United in Saturday’s FA Cup Final against Newcastle United at Wembley. Keane, who missed United’s last few League games, will be the first Irishman to captain United in an FA Cup Final since fellow Corkman Noel Cantwell in 1963. And, hopefully, like Cantwell, Keane will be climbing the famous 39 steps to take the Cup.
Keane became only the third Irishman to captain a club to the English soccer championship when Manchester United claimed the Premiership title with a 2-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur last Sunday.
Overcoming an ankle injury, the Cork midfielder was his usual influential self as Manchester United recovered from a 1-0 deficit to win through with goals from David Beckham and Andy Cole.
It was also a successful occasion for Republic of Ireland fullback, Denis Irwin, who joined an elite band of players who have won five English championship medals. Unfortunately, Irwin will miss Saturday’s FA Cup final against Newcastle due to suspension.
Keane misses the European Cup Final against Bayern Munich next week through suspension And the influential midfielder will also miss The Republic’s game against Northern Ireland at Lansdowne Road on May 29.
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Manager Mick McCarthy is allowing Keane and Irwin to stay with United in the build up to the European Cup Final in Barcelona.
The Northern Ireland game, which is in aid of the Omagh Fund, will be the first friendly between the Two Irelands. All six of the previous meetings were in European Championship or World Cup qualifiers.
The good news is that Keane and Irwin should be able to link up with the squad for the scheduled European Championship qualifiers against Yugoslavia on June 5 and Macedonia on June 9. The government are blacking the game against Yugoslavia and there still must be a doubt about this game going ahead while the NATO bombing continues.
McCarthy has also left out Stoke City’s Graham Kavanagh, who scored against Sweden last month. Kavanagh is getting married on June 4.
Meanwhile, veteran Tony Cascarino, who needs one goal to equal Frank Stapleton’s all-time Irish record of 20 goals and two caps to equal Paul McGrath record 83 caps, has got a new contract with French club Nancy. The 36-year-old striker has three games to try to equal the records.
"I can’t be certain of being in the squad when we play Malta in September, so I’ve got to make the most of these three games in Dublin," Cascarino said.