Opinion, of course, will be divided as to whether Brian Kerr’s Republic of Ireland side will benefit from the absence of Keane and the clear opportunity this presents for several other players. Certainly, it will long be the subject of debate as to whether Ireland would have advanced further in the 2002 World Cup had Keane not fought with then manager Mick McCarthy. As it turned out, the spat on Saipan was a sad and inappropriate ending to an international career that began in 1991.
Keane would probably be the first to say that Ireland shouldn’t dwell for one minute on his absence from the side. While the Corkman clearly has a healthy ego, he is also professional enough to wish his country well even if some of his fellow countrymen feel disinclined to return the sentiment. For an athlete like Roy Keane, a player often described as a human dynamo, it isn’t easy taking a step back when he clearly has a few years left in his legs.
Keane’s professional career with Manchester United goes on, of course, but the Irish team must now look to new faces as it battles for a place in the European finals in Portugal next year. Keane, of course, was once a new face himself. A worthy successor to the man is no doubt out there somewhere.