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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 February 2005, 21:31 GMT
Soccer bust up inspires musical
By Diarmaid Fleming
BBC Northern Ireland

It was the biggest sporting controversy in the Irish Republic of its time, but now the real-life drama of Roy Keane and Mick McCarthy's legendary bust-up at the 2002 World Cup is being brought to the stage.

The musical comedy "I, Keano" about the former captain and his manager has had its opening night in a Dublin theatre.

While there was little harmony between Roy Keane and his former Republic of Ireland manager, Mick McCarthy, on stage the sporting tale which divided a nation has been brought to music.

Dessie Gallagher, Mario Rosenstock and Gary Cooke play the lead roles in I Keano
Macartacus, Keano and Dunphia take to the stage in I Keano

"He came, he saw, and he walked away" is the sub-title to the show, which seems to mirror the events in Saipan when Keane left the team's training camp before the 2002 World Cup.

Sent home by manager Mick McCarthy, Keane's departure provoked fury in the Irish Republic, but divided the sporting public between those who thought he had abandoned his country, and those who believed his manager was to blame.

On-stage, there's very little love lost between Macartacus the stubborn general (played by Dessie Gallagher) and his centurion Keano (Mario Rosenstock), a perfectionist but with a wild and unpredictable temper, who appears to have little desire to heal their rift.

"No, the play is going to make the rift much worse, more bloody, more scabrous. I hope it does reopen old wounds because my personality can't function unless there is something driving me absolutely psychotic," says the character Keano before the play in a Cork city accent.

"I will not tolerate the level of abuse that was thrown against me," says Macartacus in response in deepest Yorkshire brogue.

The real story was a tragedy - it set brother against brother, family against family - so this is part of the healing process
Arthur Mathews
I Keano writer

Characters from the mythical soccer world also include Dunphia - a nymph figure based on Ireland's most controversial soccer pundit and Keane biographer Eamon Dunphy, and Packie Bonnerus, who apart from a Donegal accent appears to have little in common with legendary Irish goalkeeper Packie Bonner, whose penalty save in 1990 put the Republic into their only ever World Cup quarter-final.

The play is written by Father Ted co-creator Arthur Mathews and Michael Nugent. Mathews says, perhaps tongue in cheek, that he hopes the play will help put an end to the civil war in Irish soccer.

"The real story was a tragedy - it set brother against brother, family against family - so this is part of the healing process. Hopefully this will be the final chapter and we can draw a line under the whole thing," he says.

While the play has already extended its run in Dublin as well as in Keane's home city of Cork, director Peter Sheridan says there would be plenty of interest elsewhere.

Tempers flared between Roy Keane and Mick McCarthy in 2002

"It would be great to take it to the UK, I'm sure there'd be incredible interest," says Sheridan.

The mystique of Roy Keane in Ireland has helped provide a healthy workload for the lead actor Mario Rosentstock who had been playing the Manchester United star on Irish radio for over six years.

However, it also has its drawbacks with constant demands from strangers for impromptu performances. People no longer ask for straight impersonations, he says.

"It's funny people, just don't go 'do your Roy Keane thing' so much, they now bring their mobile phones to you and ask you to change their voice messages - or even ring up their wives up in bed at 3 o'clock in the morning and say 'I've got Roy Keane for you'".

He usually obliges with a few words, mimicking the soccer hero to perfection to startled spouses across the country.

It is not known if Roy Keane or Mick McCarthy will attend the show, or whether the performance would provoke another furious outburst from either.

But Rosenstock says he wouldn't be scared if he saw a scowling Keano in the flesh in the front row.

"I wouldn't mind because as Roy knows I'm a complete perfectionist but I'd love him and all the team to come to see the play.

"But if I were him I'd be wary and would wait to see how the play is going down with the punters before I submitted myself to the excruciating pain of seeing myself portrayed in a skirt."

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