By Mark Jones
DUBLIN — Roy Keane and controversy are becoming increasingly intimate. Following on from the controversy of his autobiography that could cost him a suspension or fine from the English Football Association, Keane was sent off in a Premiership game last weekend after he clashed with former Ireland teammate Jason McAteer.
Keane was shown the red card just before the end of Manchester United’s 1-1 draw with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light after he elbowed McAteer in the head. The two players had been involved in an incident earlier in the game after which Keane gestured that McAteer was talking too much, and McAteer replied with another gesture that Keane should add the incident to his controversial book which was ghost written by journalist Eamon Dunphy.
On the back of the 11th dismissal of his career, Keane was fined _150,000 by Manchester United (approximately two weeks wages) and will also miss three Premiership games. At first, United’s manager insisted that Keane had been hard done by and that McAteer had contributed to the sending off, but then changed his mind.
“When I saw the pictures from a different angle, I realized the referee had no option but to send him off,” Alex Ferguson said. “I still say it was petty rather than grievous and that Roy did not swing his elbow.”
The seeds for the clash with McAteer were sown during the controversy that erupted during Ireland’s pre-World Cup training camp in Saipan when McAteer made several ironic comments regarding Keane in a newspaper column. However, more recently he said he would rather buy a Bob the Builder (an English cartoon character) CD than Keane’s book.
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There was further twist to the sending off when another Sunderland player and former Ireland teammate, Niall Quinn, approached Keane to shake his hand as the left the pitch in what looked like a peacemaking gesture. Keane had branded Quinn a “coward” after the World Cup. Ferguson intervened, clearly mouthing an expletive after which Quinn backed away.
Keane said in an interview last weekend that he was sure he would one day play for Ireland again, but obviously not while Mick McCarthy is manager. “Things will work out OK in the end,” he said. “I believe that I will play for my country again. I can’t imagine finishing my international career on the note I have.”
After last weekend’s latest incident, that seems less likely.