Brian Kerr revealed a plan of an “all-Cork midfield” to coax Roy Keane back to the Republic of Ireland when he got the job to manage the Irish senior team.
Speaking to Off The Ball’s Aviva roadshow in association with Pepsi Max, Kerr explained how part of the interview process to get the job was to pitch ideas about how candidates would bring Keane back into the setup.
Kerr said he was aware of a perceived bias against Cork footballers, that they were often overlooked when it came to being selected for international under-age squads.
“I was asked that question at an interview for the job and I was aware of that idea [Cork players being overlooked],” said Kerr.
“One of the things I suggested was an all-Cork midfield.
“It was something I was interested in and loved the idea of, of bonding players [together].
“I used to manage the All-Ireland College’s team and I used to love that idea of bonding all the players from Cork together,” he explained.
He recounted the exchange he had with the former Manchester United captain about the prospect of an all-Cork midfield.
“I threw one idea at Roy,” Kerr recalled. “I said to him, ‘do you know [Liam] Miller?’
“And he said, ‘I do, yeah.’
“Then I said, ‘do you know Colin Healy?’ and he did. At that time both of those lads were just coming up and they weren’t big time.
“And then I said, ‘what about an all-Cork midfield, the three of yous in the middle?’
“And Roy said, ‘will they do the running?’ Kerr said with a laugh.
The former St. Patrick’s Athletic boss joked that before he “even got in the door” the FAI had asked Kerr how he might convince Keane to return to the international fold.
At the time, 'Saipan' and 'Mick or Roy' were virtually inescapable. In a pre-Avengers, pre-social media world, this was the closest to #TeamCap or #TeamTony that the country was going get.
But Kerr remained neutral. Like some sort of Saipan Switzerland, with the goal of agreeing to a peace treaty for the benefit of Irish football.
“I understood the whole thing about people in the country being divided about it,” Kerr said.
“And I felt it was quite badly handled by the FAI at the time by all the people involved and it was a tragedy from everyone’s point-of-view that he didn’t play.
“But my responsibility was to try put out the best team I had to win matches and he was good enough to play so that was my mindset - even if I disagreed with Mick or Roy.
“That was no issue to me, just get him out to play if you can,” he said.
Brian Kerr was speaking at our latest roadshow from the Aviva Stadium in association with Pepsi Max. The full final chat with Brian Kerr, Stephanie Roche, David Meyler and Damien Delaney will be released on Tuesday night on our Facebook and Youtube channels #OTBAviva #ForTheLoveOfIt