Two things happened together when Roy Keane went home to Cork last week, over and above the humdrum 1-1 draw that allowed Sunderland to continue their mini-tour of Ireland unbeaten. A couple of photographers fell over themselves in their anxiety to get a shot of him striding purposefully across the Turner’s Cross pitch, providing a laugh for the 7,000 crowd even if the Sunderland manager’s clenched expression never flickered. The only concession Keane made to informality was to ditch the club blazer and tie and greet a balmy evening with shirtsleeves for, and this was the second notable event, the sun was shining for the first time in a dismal Irish summer.
‘Roy must have had a word with God,’ it was immediately suggested. ‘You mean he’s been talking to himself again,’ came a reply so swift it had to have been prepared. If you think your correspondent had his ear particularly close to the ground at Cork City you would be mistaken. This alleged conversation came courtesy of the front page of a national newspaper the following morning. At least they mentioned his real name. Newspapers and almost everyone else in this part of the world have developed a disconcerting habit of referring to Keane simply as The Man.
So, before returning to the North-East for yesterday’s 1-1 draw with Juventus, Sunderland picked an obvious winner for their pre-season tour, strengthening already firm links with Ireland and offering their fans an affordable jolly, even if the man at the centre of it all remained businesslike throughout. Keane used his time in Ireland to snatch Cork striker Roy O’Donovan from Fulham’s grasp, quite possibly moving to bolster his attack after watching Michael Chopra and others miss chance after chance against Bohemians, and declined an offer to attend Galway Races – where Sunderland had a hospitality tent – in favour of supervising training and conducting his daily press conference. Most of the rest of the time, even in Cork, he spent in his hotel.
‘People in diabecon online dating Cork are just obsessed with photographs and autographs. They can be very intrusive, even if they have had 20 photographs before,’ he said. ‘Unfortunately the only place to get away from that is your room. I can understand children wanting more all the time, but adults, at one in the morning, tripping over themselves to get an autograph on a wet beer mat is something I’ll never understand. It’s nice when people applaud you, but ideally you want people to focus on the match. I want to keep things low key in Cork, because I’m home quite often. I won’t come out and start bowing and waving to everybody. I appreciate it, but I’m not a great one for lapping it up.’
Just as well Niall Quinn wears the disco pants then, even if the Sunderland chairman’s recent attempt to distance himself from attention-seeking owners of other clubs only brought unwelcome publicity of its own and ended with an apology to Harry Redknapp. Keane can hardly expect to bring his new Premier League club over to Ireland for the week and escape attention – had he wished for anonymity he could have gone to the Middle East or Scandinavia – though he insisted the trip was ideal preparation.
‘It’s perfect,’ he said. ‘Irish teams are well into their season, so you get a proper game. It’s not a long flight and you get looked after. The PR side is also a plus, but primarily it’s a good workout for the players. Irish teams get stuck in, they know how Cheap to tackle, and that’s what you need. There’s the pride thing as well. A lot of Irish players want to do well against the English teams. I was exactly the same. I still remember playing for Cobh against West Brom.’
That, as Sunderland’s newer recruits are doubtless starting to realise, is the authentic Keane. Many managers would prefer to wrap players in cotton wool at this stage of the season, or make them feel better about themselves by taking on big names at contact-free football. Not Keane. Exposing his players to full-blooded challenges from opponents he can rely on to be up for it is probably Keane’s way of showing them how lucky they are, or hardening them up. Possibly both. Somehow one is not surprised to hear that Keane is black friday 2013 canada goose sale a big fan of hurling – ‘a game for real tough men’ – and that not only has he given motivational talks to the Cork Rebels, he has even taken a hurl buying a canada goose jacket online and sliotar into the Sunderland dressing room. ‘Daryl Murphy looked like he could handle a hurley; Dwight Yorke didn’t have a clue.’
No doubt Sunderland’s insurers will step in before Keane arms his players with sticks and helmets, which Premier League rules would not allow in any case, although instructing his players to watch Cork’s memorable quarter-final against Waterford last weekend was a smart move. Hurling is exactly the sort of sport more Premiership footballers – and spectators – should watch. The players are brave, skilful, passionate and intensely committed, and they do it for nothing. Anyone running away with the idea that English football is the last word in entertainment should have watched the dramatic draw between Cork and Waterford (the replay is this afternoon) when a hotly disputed penalty in stoppage time made a whole country gasp.
No one else in Cork needed telling to watch. On Sunday afternoon, when Keane was winding down an open training-session in front of a modest gathering of around 250 plus a couple of seriously underworked motorcycle policemen, the population of Cork not already at Croke Park was settling down in front of television screens. The streets were empty, the pubs full to the doors. Keane could have announced he had signed Carlos Tevez at that point and the news would still have had to take second place to a portly ref and a debate on what constitutes obstruction in hurling.
Sunderland in Ireland might sound like a marriage made in heaven, yet The Man on tour never quite turned into a total love-in, mainly because of the local competition. A dull game against Bohemians in Dublin was dwarfed in every sense by the All Ireland hurling quarter-finals half a mile away. Keane’s return to Cork drew a full house at Turner’s canada goose coat 1000 bulbs promo Cross but remained a side issue to the hurling controversy. Then buy canada goose parka uk Sunderland opted to berlin film festival ends canada goose jacket sponsorship amid play Galway City during the races, which is a bit like hoping to gain attention by staging a friendly against Cheltenham Town in mid-Festival. Hotels within buy canada goose jacket winnipeg a 30-mile radius of the city were booked months in advance, and only the hardiest Sunderland fans put up with traffic jams and commutes from as far out as Roscommon and Athlone.
They were rewarded by four goals, the most assured performance of the week and the rare sight of Keane laughing out loud as he shared a joke with female stewards behind his bench. Normally a devotee of the Mourinho/Rijkaard style of studied insouciance, casually yet elegantly standing arms folded and occasionally leaning against the dugout frame, Keane must have felt a release of tension as first Chopra then Kieran Richardson scored with exemplary finishes. Both players had been under a certain amount of pressure, and Keane had said they would come good. Chopra, in particular, had plenty to prove to his new public.
‘Never mind whether or not he’s better than David Nugent, he used to play for bloody Newcastle,’ said Jim Speckman, a lifelong Sunderland fan from Corby, Northants. ‘Typical of Keane to make a signing like that. Plenty wouldn’t. But if Nugent really thinks life is going to be better at Pompey we’re purchase methotrexate cost probably better off without him.’
It is fair to say Speckman best price canada goose jacket outlet usa online store is impressed with the Keane regime. So is his brother Tom, from Peterlee, Co Durham, while Stuart Marshall, of Corby via Scotland, is so taken with the whole Sunderland renaissance he temporarily turned his back on Rangers to join his pals in Ireland. All three believe Sunderland will survive comfortably in the Premier League, but then you would expect them to. All three believe Newcastle will be relegated. ‘I don’t say we are going to be fantastic, but I refuse to believe there won’t be three teams worse than us,’ Tom said. ‘Derby, Fulham and Middlesbrough for a start. Not to mention Newcastle, Bolton and Wigan. We didn’t feel this confident two years ago. We had our hopes, but we knew there was no money. Now we believe in the board as well as the manager. And we know Roy Keane is a winner.’
Few could argue, although occasionally it is necessary to remind fans that Keane will not be playing for Sunderland. Ron and Carol Gibson, a retired couple in their late sixties from Ashbrook, Sunderland, believe their team will qualify for Europe this season. That’s why they decided to get some early practice in Ireland, despite not being able to get tickets for any Pills of the games. ‘Reading nearly made it to Europe in their first season,’ Ron said, quite reasonably. ‘It’s lovely here, we’re really enjoying it,’ said Carol. ‘Everywhere you go you meet Sunderland supporters.’
Not quite. ‘Roy Keane is the best midfielder I’ve ever watched, but at the moment he’s just a Mackem bastard,’ said Peter Hall. ‘There’s no chance of that shower finishing higher than us.’ Keeping a low profile in a pub down Mutton Lane until the red-and-white hordes left Cork, Hall is a builder from Newcastle enjoying the Irish property boom. ‘There’s plenty of buy canada goose jacket online canada money here and plenty of work,’ he said. ‘Ireland is the second richest country in the world now – one in every 227 people is a millionaire.’
Given that only about a dozen people in every 227 seem actually Irish, canada buy canada goose jacket in canada goose coat 1000 bulbs reviews what with all the Poles, Americans and holidaymakers knocking about kids, that is a staggering statistic. Sunderland might be on to something big. They certainly are with their manager. Keane is not going to be back walking his dog before Christmas, he is going to light up the Premier League. He is fully in control. When an unruly posse of press and radio reporters threatened to engulf him on the Bohemians’ pitch, he took a step backwards in mock fright. Everybody laughed, Keane smiled, but then the distance was kept. All the best managers have a way of quietly exuding their authority without being demeaned by the daftness that frequently surrounds them. Keane has what it takes.