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20th May 2012

Irish Soccer’s Most Memorable Moments, No 20: Roy Keane’s performance against Figo & Co, 2001

Continuing our countdown of Irish soccer's most memorable moments, we recall one of the games that built the legend of Roy Keane.


Continuing our countdown of Irish soccer’s most memorable moments, we recall one of the games that built the legend of Roy Keane.

By Shane Breslin

Roy Keane, between 1999 and 2001, had few equals in the world game. Was there anyone with a similar level of influence on club and country? Not many.

It could be argued that Zinedine Zidane was driven on by Keane’s display for Manchester United against Juventus in 1999 to become the player who would bestride the world of soccer like a colossus. Zizou was undone by Keane’s insatiable desire and unstoppable brilliance in Turin that night way back when.

Nor was he the only one.

Those two and a half years of unsurpassed brilliance culminated in what must be described, to anyone who has studied artistic genius back to the Renaissance, as an inevitable episode of off-the-rails crash-and-burn on that Pacific island that shall not be mentioned.

Keane was a scientific impossibility: he was both an irresistible force and an immovable object; bring those two things together and don’t be surprised when you get a Big Bang.

We’ll have more on Holland at Lansdowne Road in September 2001 later on in this Top 50 countdown, but for now we’re concentrating on the previous June and the visit of the Portuguese.

Portugal were a fixture in the Top 5 of the world rankings at the time, by dint of the rise to maturity of their golden generation of Luis Figo, Rui Costa, Nuno Gomes, Abel Xavier and Joao Pinto.

Mick McCarthy’s Ireland team that day included two right backs (Stephen Carr and Gary Kelly), two left backs (Ian Harte and Steve Staunton, who had by then moved inside to centre half), a future left back (Kevin Kilbane), Richard Dunne at centre half and a defensive midfielder (Mark Kinsella).

And Keane, who harried and hussled in Ireland’s defensive third, cowed Portuguese into submission in midfield and popped up with Ireland’s opening goal. Figo would head an equaliser to take a point for the visitors, but that afternoon at Lansdowne was one of a number of games that made the legend of Keano before everything turned into a tragicomedy.

Today marks 24 days to go until the start of Euro 2012, so stick with us every day as we present another memorable Irish soccer moment.