Ach Pat, surely not Keane…

Reader Conor points us in the direction of a press release from Pat Rabbitte, in which he states that “Roy Keane was probably the greatest footballer Ireland has ever produced”. Now, he has given himself an out with the use of the word ‘probably’. But my suspicion is that that accolade should more properly reside with another former Manchester United player from north of the border. Unless Pat is just taking partition to its ultimate conclusion. 😉 What do you think?

  • m

    I think you and others know what he meant and are just acting the bollix.

    Ok, so he didn’t say Republic of Ireland, some people really don’t like that and prefer he did. Get over it.

    He was talking about Roy Keane retiring. Not everything is about the north of Ireland or partition. Sometimes Pat Rabittee may wax lyrical on issues such as the retirement of international players without giving the sensibilities of northerners on certain words a passing thought. He’d be right too.

  • I agree Mick, Best was without doubt Ireland’s best footballer but Keane is a close second.

  • Mick Fealty


    Have added a smiley to connote humourous remark. Hope that covers it?

  • páid

    Covers it for me.

    No votes in upcoming election for backing George Best. (far away distant North)

    No votes in upcoming election for backing Mick McCarthy (apart from one or two around Tallow)

    Personally still trying to get over the line


  • kensei

    Ooh Ah Paul McGrath. Ireland best footballer, drunk, no knees, played until he was 40. legend.

    I am about to commit hersey, here. While Best was always capable of utter brilliance and some astonishing stuff, he burned brighted but quickly and never graced the world’s greatest stage, something both McGrath and Keane managed. I would place McGrath on top, not only for his football but also the fact he suffered many of the same problems as best but came through them much better, and Keane for his sheer medal haul and awesome performances for a period that must surely double Best’s useful career.

  • Keith M

    The only comparison between Keane and Best was that they both played for Man.U. and they both put theitr club above their respective countries. Keane was a an over-hyped journeyman with (by his own admission) a perchant for thuggery.

    When Pat Rabbitte refers to “Ireland” he’s almost certainly using the constitutional definition, but when it comes to football, he should know better and use the agreed “Republic of Ireland”.

  • m

    Best may have been the more skilfull player (before his early physically failure through addictive behaviour). Keane was the more successful at both international and club level.

    Club honours George Best:

    Football League Championship winners medal 1965 1967
    UEFA European Cup winners medal, 1968

    International George best:

    37 games

    Club honours Roy Keane:

    English FA Premier League champion 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003
    English FA Cup winner 1994, 1996, 1999, 2004
    UEFA Champions League winner 1999
    Intercontinental Cup winner 1999
    Scottish Premier League champion 2006
    Scottish League Cup winner 2006

    International Roy Keane:

    66 Games, played in 2 World Cups.

    George may have had glamour and for a while the skill. Keane did the business time and time again.

  • Keith M

    m, football is a team sport, Alan Shearer is one of the greatest English footballers of all time and won little or nothing. Several very ordinary footballers have World Cup winners medals.

    Best was chosen as European footballer of the year despite next playing international football at the top level, Keane won no such recognition despite playiong in two World Cups.

    I don’t know of anyone who would think that Keane had anything like as much skill as Best.

  • ‘Over-hyped journeyman’

    Can you not let one thing lie.

    Roy Keane was a phenomenal player with immense presence, he covered so much turf inspiring his team mates and diminishing the opposition confidence.

    He scored goals, he passed the ball accurately and well, he single-handedly carried Ireland to the World Cup in 2002 before rowing with the real journeyman. He was the lifeblood of Utd and Ireland . Journeyman? Give me Keano’s strength!

    George Best looks like he was an amazing player, too young to have seen him play a full game but a special talent evidently.

    Two very different but exceptional players from Ireland.

  • abucs

    i think they were two different types of players that would both definately get a start in an all Ireland team and probably in an all British isles football team.

    Best was the more attractive footballer for me.
    I liked Liam Brady and Glenn Hoddle too. Unfortunately Liam was a too early for the World Cup team of 1990 and for me England never used Glenn Hoddle as they could have.

  • heres hoping

    i have to agree with you on this Keith M the neville brothers are evidence of this, Dennis Irwin on RTE last night 22 years a professional won mountains of medals, dozens of international played in world cups and euros but never the greatest Irish player. Medals and the like dont make class, a bit of luck goes a long way as much in life.

    Best unbelievable skill, agility and class.

    Keane a real winner.

    If i were picking a team one place to decide it would have to be Keane but if i am honest i am not really knowledgeable enough to judge Best. Probably a little too young. At 40 i never thought i would ever be able to seriously use that line again… ah well its good to be young.

  • Alan

    George Best was quicksilver brilliant, a stunning, imaginative and heart stopping player. He also worked like a trojan and kept Man U in the 1st division after 1968. His skill and work rate were collossal. He drank – sad, but doesn’t tarnish the memory.

    I’m sure Keane could tell you who is the best between them.

  • PHIL

    I would have to say Liam Brady was the greatest Irish player ever for two reasons, the left footed, outside of the boot curler at WHL two days before Christmas in 1978 in a 5-0 win there and for his performance in the ’79 cup final when he created the first two goals that should have won us the FA cup, then picked himself up to put a cross over for the winner in the final minute after we’d thrown away a 2-0 lead. He was my childhood hero and I can still feel the sadness that I felt when he left for Juve the following year! Arsenal should have broken the bank to keep him and built the side around him, but they didn’t do things like that in those days. What would he be like playing today alongside the likes of Fabregas and Henry?

  • kensei

    “m, football is a team sport, Alan Shearer is one of the greatest English footballers of all time and won little or nothing. Several very ordinary footballers have World Cup winners medals.

    Best was chosen as European footballer of the year despite next playing international football at the top level, Keane won no such recognition despite playiong in two World Cups.

    I don’t know of anyone who would think that Keane had anything like as much skill as Best.”

    Let me make myself clear. I HATE Keane. I HATE Utd, too. After what he did to Ireland he should never have been allowed in the country again, and he played for Man U and was generally obnoxious.

    But he was an awesome football player. You don’t get the plaudits he had from the coaches he has over the past few days without being extraordinary. There is more to football than runs and goals – as pretty as they are – and he is probably the archtype for the modern box to box midfielder that is probably the most important position in the modern game.

    The argument about average players winning a lot of medals (though to be hnoest, weak links don’t stick about lon, and you need to be at least a wee bit good) might hold a little better if he wasn’t the absolute heart of the United team that dominated th egame for a decade.

  • BogExile

    Jim Platt was probably the greatest footballer in Ireland and Venus. For the other side.

  • abucs

    Yes PHIL that is still one of the best FA cup finals. Fellow Irishman Frank Stapleton and Pat Jennings and Sammy McIlroy included.

    It’s a shame for Ireland that just when Jackie Charlton were getting things organised Liam was on the way out.

    I think he may have been one of the first players from the English divisions to earn a living in continental Europe. He was great for Arsenal and lifted a non organised Irish team very close to qualifying for the world cup.

  • esmereldavillalobos

    Remember Alf Inge Haaland – I’ll leave it at that.

  • SeamusG

    On a lighter note, the Independent yesterday highlighted something about Roy that they said set him apart from more or less all his contemporaries, and would certainly fifferentiate him from the younger, image-conscious George. In the words of Sam Wallace:
    “In a profession obsessed with image he never seemed to care about what he wore – who could forget his ‘Guide Dogs of Ireland’ jacket in which he was photographed during his departure from United? The suit he sported at his first Celtic press conference, most Premiership players would not allow their chauffeurs to wear.”

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Steve Morrow was a leg-end, the best player in our year at that time.

  • Mike

    There would be a few contenders from Northern Ireland for the greatest footballer the island of Ireland has ever produced other than George Best. Two take one notable for longevity as well as his playing abilities, and one from the ‘burned brightly for a short time’ category:

    Pat Jennings – 119 caps for NI, played in 2 World Cups, host of medals with Spurs and Arsenal including FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup, British Championship with NI.

    Howeever for pure skill and outstanding natural ability, no pther player NI or this island as a whole has ever produced comes close to George Best. He’s without a doubt our only contender for the world’s greatest footballer of all time.

    Norman Whiteside – amazing record at such an early age:
    Age 16 – makes fist team debut for Manchester United
    Age 17 – international debut for Northern Ireland in 1982 World Cup finals. Breaks Pele’s record to become youngest ever player to play in the World Cup, a record he still holds (aged 17 years 41 days). Plays in all 5 matches as NI beat host nation Spain and reach second round.
    Age 18 – becomes youngest ever player to score in a cup final at Wembley as he scores in Man Utd’s 1983 League Cup Final defeat by Liverpool.
    – becomes youngest ever player to score in FA Cup final as he scores in Man Utd’s replay win over Brigton (another record he still holds)
    Age 20 – Scores the winner (an absolute screamer) and only goal of Man Utd’s 1985 FA Cup final win over Everton
    Age 21 – plays in his second World Cup finals, Mexico 86. Scores against Algeria.

  • jocky

    m, AFAIK Keane doesn’t actually have a Champions League winners medal as he was suspended for the final after getting booked against Juve. Thereofe Man U’s greatest achievement was done without Keane.

    Is Dennis Irwin’s medal haul not comparable?

    Surely Ireland must have a better all time player than Keane?

    Best player to turn his back on Ireland, definitely.

  • m

    Whiteside, another northern player that took the bottle over his career.

    Skill, yes. Other than Jennings those mentioned so far have wasted talented and provided terrible role models.

  • Ringo

    Keane and Best = Apples and Oranges (no pun intended)

    What Keane brought to a game Best never could, and vice versa. One was the finest player of the Busby era and the other the finest of the Ferguson era (according to the tribute from the man himself).

    Where Best’s personal awards easily trump Keane’s (still how he ended up with 1 PP of the year and 1 PFA award is a mystery – Ginola in ’99????) –
    Keane’s career gleaned far more silverware.

    To quote another recently retired great – hurler DJ Carey – when asked about his achievements, he rattled off all his personal awards, and then put it into context – hurling like soccer is a team game. You don’t ‘win’ all-stars or hurler of the year awards – you’re given them – you have to win the All-Ireland medals.

    Best was immensely talented; Keane was a winner.
    If there was one Irish player you would want to line up along side you, its Keane, and if there is one player you don’t want to be facing, its Best.

    All in all I think Pat got it right – I don’t think Best could have dragged that Ireland side to the 2002 World Cup.

  • Ringo

    Whiteside, another northern player that took the bottle over his career.

    That’s nonsense – it was problems with his knees, not drink that put an end to his career. He may have been a partial to a piss-up – but not anymore than a similar aged college student.

    The frightening thing is that he’s only a year older than Teddy Sheringham if my calculations are correct….

  • Alexander Bowman

    Best and Keane?

    Apples and oranges?

    Different evolutionary stages, more like…

    A Cro-Magnon knuckle-dragger, in a nappy, set alongside Mozart…

  • darth rumsfeld

    Peter Doherty?

    Danny Blanchflower?

    Billy Gillespie?- they had to change the offside rule for him!

    Charlie Tully? could score direct from a corner kick at will

    Northen Ireland- never mind all Ireland- could put out an XI that Keane wouldn’t even get to be water boy for

  • Alexander Bowman


    For my sins, I used to follow the ‘Seasiders’ during the ‘sixties when Tully managed them.

    It was whispered then that, back in the ‘fifties, he had captained Belfast Celtic at Windsor Park (in front of a crowd of 40 K) against a team built from the best of the home countries and ‘bate’ them 4 -1

  • kensei

    “m, AFAIK Keane doesn’t actually have a Champions League winners medal as he was suspended for the final after getting booked against Juve. Thereofe Man U’s greatest achievement was done without Keane.”

    I don’t think so. I am sure he qualified for a medal a as result of playing in almost all the other games. He said at the time *he* thought it didn’t count.

    And if you want exhibit A in Keane’s brilliance – the semi against Juventus.

  • Dec


    You forgot Jackie Vernon from the Springfield Road who was the best defender Ireland ever produced. However likening Roy Keane to a waterboy is nonsensical considering he was twice the player Danny Blanchflower ever was. When I see people rubbishing Roy keane’s football abilities I seriously doubt these people have ever played to even a decent standard of football in their life.


    a cro-magnon knuckle dragger compared to a mozart

    I once witnessed George Best at a Manchester United players re-union drunkenly refer to Andy Cole as ‘a nigger’to the huge embarressment (and not a little outrage) of all present. Pure artistry.

  • Peter Canavan was the best but Jackie Carey if you must talk about soccer.

  • Keith M

    I would agree N.I. has other claimants to the title, but none comes close to Best. I wouldn’t include Whiteside, best Best, Blanchflower and Doherty would make an all-time all-Irish eleven.

  • Ringo

    Northen Ireland- never mind all Ireland- could put out an XI that Keane wouldn’t even get to be water boy for

    Right – gloves are off.

    This notion that Best is a contender for the greatest player of all time is just ridiculous. Regardless what the viagra-seller says. Pele would tell me I was the greatest player of all time if I grovelled enough too. He’s so pepped up on horny tablets he’s trying to chat up anything that approaches him.

    The Romanians used to refer to Georgi Hagi as the Maradona of the Carpathians. That makes George Best the Hagi of the Mournes.

    As for scoring from corners – it is a sign of complete ineptness on behalf of the defenders, not a reflection on the talent of the taker. I’ve even seen Ian Harte do it.

  • duffy

    Keane was not a bad player in some respects but hardly one of the all time greats. He probably wouldn’t have got close enough to Best even to make a late tackle.

  • Mick Fealty


    “…provided terrible role models.”

    Nicky Campbell debunked this very line of thinking in the wake of Best’s death:

    ….if we want our stars to play like Greek gods, we shouldn’t fret when they behave like Greek gods – horny, violent and amoral.

    I sought instruction from a moral philosopher about this role model humbug. David Archard, Professor of Philosophy and Public Policy at Lancaster University, said the concept of positive moral influence exercised by flawed characters is nothing new. “John Stuart Mill,” he explained, “thought that people should lead their lives as they see fit. They then provide a valuable lesson and everybody benefits.”

    And if you must infer any moral lesson from George Best, then surely that is it. The absences without leave, the curtailed career, the time in prison, the treatment of women, the hopeless alcoholism – with all these he touched our moral imagination.

    As do Rooney, Beckham, Prince Charles, David Blunkett and an infinite list for that matter. But touching our moral imagination is not the same thing as influencing our moral choices.

  • PHIL


    “Steve Morrow was a leg-end, the best player in our year at that time.”

    I’m sure Steve would admit that he was no world beater. A few days after his “accident” at the ’93 League cup final, he visited a hairdresser where my friend worked in Cheshunt. She had no idea who he was and asked him how he hurt his arm. He said that he did it playing football. She replied “Ooh, what pub do you play for”.

  • Alexander Bowman


    The comparison was on the – no doubt, trivial – strength of aesthetics. Keane: a dully efficient, chopping technocrat. Best: too much flair to achieve the only thing that apparently matters these days (and who cares how you get it!) – success.

    I’d heard the Andy Cole story from a girl I know in belfast and – regretfully- believed it from her as I do in your telling.

    Set against it, though, when Albert johansen (the first black guy to play first division soccer – for Leeds) was hitting the skids through a combination of racism, prejudice and his own thirst, George was frequently there to lend a much-needed helping hand.

  • Dec

    It was whispered then that, back in the ‘fifties, he had captained Belfast Celtic at Windsor Park (in front of a crowd of 40 K) against a team built from the best of the home countries and ‘bate’ them 4 -1

    Getting your stories mixed up there. Charlie Tully signed for (Glasgow) Celtic in 1948. Belfast Celtic had left the Irish league in 1948 after Linfield fans attempted to maim several of the players and broke Jimmy Jones’ leg during the match. Celtic then left the league and did breat the Scotland Team 2-0 at the Polo Fields in New York some years later.

  • Dec


    I don’t think skill on the ball is the only fdetermining factor in judging the worlds best player. My favourite ever player was Franz Beckenbauer. He invented a position on his own – ‘libero’ and won a world Cup, European Championship and 3 consecutive European Cups as Captain. He probably only ever scored 5 times in his entire career hence his exclusion from most of these lists.

  • Mick Fealty

    Doesn’t sound like a league game to me Dec. There was a game in May ’52 against Glasgow Celtic, which the Scottish side won 3-2. Perhaps there were others?

  • Nevermind Pat Rabbitte, an annoying as a gnat fly, a so-called left winger who becomes the mudguard of Fine Gael, the most reactionary right-wing party since, ahem, the PDs.
    But anyway, Keane, I never liked him and I’m from Cork, but, trying to be objective, Roy Keane was a midfield-general who any supporter would gladly wish his team to buy when he was in his prime.

    Darth, I’m sure if he was Royston Keen from the Shankill or Ballyhackamore, you would be more generous.
    Maybe someone can do a blog with the best Irish (32 counties) team of all time?
    Starting off, I guess big Pat from Newry or maybe the other Ulsterman, Shay Given who has been the best Irish player this last few years, says a lot really 🙁

  • Aidan

    I compare Keane and Best with Batman and Superman.

    One lacked the natural gifts required for their chosen path in life, but more than made up for it in grit, determination and work ‘off the field’. The other had a plethora of natural talents, and was happy to use them when the chance arose, but left one with a feeling that they could have achieved a little more had they taken a step back and thought about the bigger picture.

    Batman is the greatest superhero.

  • Gum

    Big Pat from Newry?

  • Chris Donnelly

    I think nostalgia will be kind to Keane, as it has undoubtedly been to George Best. Ask this question in 20 years and you’ll probably get a less one-sided debate.

    Ask me today and I’d say Best was the greatest Irish soccer player ever, but only because I’ve been told it so many times and seen the same collection of goals on the telly for 20-odd years to ‘prove’ it to me. Though to be fair, one of the live re-runs of a Manchester United match starring Best was broadcast following his death and, I have to say, he was quite breathtaking throughout.

    Similarly, Keane will be remembered in snapshot for his (albeit smaller) selection of goals but also for his commanding presence on the field of play, for all privileged enough to witness him guiding Manchester United and Ireland through difficult seasons and tournaments.

    I’d like to add Paul McGrath to this elite selection: defensive players rarely get mentioned in the same breath as goalscoring heroes(German greats aside), but McGrath was a legend in his own right. His magnificent performance in The Meadowlands against Italy (1990) ranks for me as one of the greatest sporting achievements by an Irish sporting personality (I feel a separate blog coming on….)

  • Patrique

    Best did drag a poor United team to the European cup. Best was brilliant, up there with the Peles, Maradonnas, above Cruff and people like that, playing for two bad sides.Ofcourse Phil Neville has far more medals so perhaps some on this thread would rate him a better player.As for a short career, that’s like saying Mozart wasn’t around long enough to be judged a good composer, or John McEnroe and Serena Williams at tennis.

    Roy Keane was a passionate midfield workhorse, and there are loads of those, Essien, Gerard, and countless others. George was a genius footballer.

    George was also braver, as Roy was prone to cowardly acts such as his assault on the Man City player, and his verbal assault on Mick Mccarthy, obviously relying on the fact that it would look bad on TV if Mick had taken him outside and given him a kicking.Just like Brian Clough did in the early days. Roy could lift a team, but he could also undermine one.

    Liam Brady was a better footballer, and McGrath was one of the very few defenders from these islands over the last 40 years who was truly world class.

  • don

    Liam Brady was a class act when playing at his prime, hugely skillful and a trmendous with the ball at his feet.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Correction to earlier post: Meadowlands came in ’94 not ’90. Getting my fond memories mixed up…

  • kensei

    I’d like to add Paul McGrath to this elite selection:
    Posted by Chris Donnelly on Jun 14, 2006 @ 11:38 PM


  • darth rumsfeld

    “Darth, I’m sure if he was Royston Keen from the Shankill or Ballyhackamore, you would be more generous.”

    Er, no- in the same way that it would be ludicrous to put Whiteside or Jimmy Nicholl in the all time best Irish XI. And what denomination do you think Tully and Doherty were?- nevermind the genius Jennings, mentioned by someone else before me, or I’d have put him in-and his empty left glove is better than Given- as were Harry Gregg and Elisha Scott, and an injury free Tommy Wright BTW . And Jackie Vernon is certainly another candidate Keane played one superb game in Turin, and was a talented enforcer- but was not a patch on McGrath Chippy Brady, Johnny Carey or indeed Johnny Giles.

    On Tully and cornerkicks- playing for Cellick against Falkirk he scored direct from a corner, and the ref told him to take it again, so he did and scored again. So much for defenders being able to stop him- and to compare him with the donkey Hart!!!!!

    As far as sporting icons go, it says much that the retirement of this thuggish cromagnon meritted more newsprint than the death last week of Republic of Ireland’s greatest sportsman, Dr Kevin O’Flanagan- a man full of modesty, decency and kindness, with amazing talents in every sport he turned his hand to, who was both a doctor, and a brilliant ambassador for his country.( Crikey, corkman, imagine what I’d have said about him if he’d been from the Shankill)

  • Ringo

    Brady was probably the closest thing the Republic came to Best – but football isn’t figure-skating, and being fawned on by Nick Horby readers for having ‘a cultured left-foot’ is no substitute for success.

    Swap Keane for Brady and there would have been two Irish teams in Spain in ’82. And none in 2002.

    The demise of Brady heralded our golden age. Keane single-handedly ensured that that golden-age was dragged on for at least 6 years longer than it should have – into the 21st century. His demise brings down the curtain.

    Darth – unless he was playing a team made up of Snow White and the seven dwarves, the fact that he repeated the feat only goes to show how tactically inept the defenders were. There is absolutely no excuse for letting in a ball direct from a corner, full stop.

    BTW- I heard Best re-tell a similar story about himself – he scored from a corner against a Bobby Robson side (IIRC) who later claimed it was a fluke. The next time he was playing them Best was lining up a corner and gave a nod to Bobby before hitting the crossbar.

    Did you see much of Johnny Carey play btw?

  • kensei

    “Best was brilliant, up there with the Peles, Maradonnas, above Cruff and people like that, playing for two bad sides”

    He simply isn’t. He burned out just too fast and didn’t do it on the big stage. If you were to compare some of the best moments, he could maybe be up there. But to be truly great you need not just to do it, but keep doing it. Pele is almost unassialable in this regard, with something like a 1000 goals and a goal a game ratio. even Maradona, who suffered some of the problems of Best, appeared in 3 or 4 World Cups. He will always be a tier down form the top top players because of that.

    If Best had have kept himself in shape and playing, he should have made it into the NI side in 1982.

  • Holt

    50 Comments from Sluggerites so far on Rabbittes view of Roy Keane, its a pity there is not more comments on his views on ‘The Fair Society’!

  • George Best played first division football for 11 years. He was small, but had perfect balance. He played against Chopper Harris, Billy Bremner and Johnny Giles, GBH merchants all. Pele was better ubt Pele could dish it out as well as he had to. Best had perfect balance, both feet, a dribbler (which all kids love).
    Liam Brayd was the biggest wanker ever and the best thing Jack Charlton did was to get rid of him. Remember all the bs on Gay Byrne about getting rid of that wanker?
    Jackie Carey played for both the RoI and nI teams. He palued in 10 different positions at Man Uts and he remains the standard against whch all defenders are measured. Different times though.

    Mick O’Dwyer deserves a mention.

  • Patrique

    Tom Finney won nothing, neither did the best “English” player for the last 30 years, Matt Le Tisier. Gary Neville has 8 premiership medals, must be the best player ever, and Linfield doing the clean sweep of 7 trophies in 1962 must be the best team ever, if you want winners.

    George Best didn’t do it on the big stage? He carried an aging United team, minus Law, to Eoropean victory, before they started fixing it and sharing it around to increase sales.He was still doing it at Fulham when he was playing part time. Inborn genius, Keane was an enforcer, give me six months training and a karate black belt, and I could do that. I could never be a Best.

  • Ziznivy

    keane was not even the best southern player. He was a thug who could effectively spoil a game. [Removed]