By Ray O’Hanlon
Star Irish soccer player Roy Keane was grumpy after a 17-hour flight to the island of Saipan.
And he didn’t like the place when he arrived either.
The heat and humidity were off the charts.
And as for the Irish team’s training pitch?
Keane is used to the plush sward of Old Trafford, Manchester United hallowed home.
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The bone-dry, potholed and crab-grassed fields of Saipan were not his liking at all.
He should have seen the place in 1944.
The battle for Saipan was one of the bloodiest of the Pacific island-hopping campaign against the Japanese.
It lasted 25 days, about the length of a World Cup campaign.
The wounds sustained were rather more than bruised ankles and torn hamstrings.
The place was in fact extremely deadly.
And the pay for a U.S. Marine facing death by the minute was a far cry from Roy Keane’s annual haul.
The Marine counted dollars individually. Keane takes them home by the many thousands each week.
The battle for Saipan took the lives of 2359 Americans. 11,000 were wounded.
The Japanese took an even tougher beating. 25,000 of them were killed.
In fact, taking a bullet was the fastest way of making a quick exit from Saipan.
Roy Keane, of course, got the bullet from his manager after his retreat under the kind fire which his team mates seemed to consider par for the pitch.
Some bullets hurt more than others.
Roy Keane’s doesn’t quite rate in the history books despite all the sleepless nights suffered by Irish soccer fans since he took his leave of a steam dot in an ocean that once ran as red as a Man. United shirt.