Former Manchester United captain Roy Keane has rarely resisted an opportunity to speak his mind regarding the state of the Republic Of Ireland’s national side, but the matter of alcoholism consumed (sorry) a good portion of a Friday chat with the Irish Times’ Tom Humphries :
Of those men who will spend their lives fixing a hole by pouring drink into it, Paul McGrath is one of the most beloved and tragic. Keane has always been a good friend to his old team-mate and as such he doesn™t sugar-coat the message when asked.
œI was talking to Paul a couple of months ago. Everybody loves Paul, but Paul knows the score. He knows where to go and get help. He says it himself. He has to help himself. It has to be down to Paul. I can™t do it for him. How many people in Ireland have tried to help Paul? He knows by now where to get help.
œWhen I was having my own escapades I hope I was being young and raw and stupid. I went too far sometimes, but my social life in that way had a short life-span. Burned out. The penny dropped a few years ago for a number of reasons. Thank God. I care about Paul. I care about the man. When the playing stops the buzz goes, but for some lads that need is there even when playing. I can just say to Paul that he can stop if he goes to the right people.
œWhen you stop playing there is a bit of boredom. People throw drink at you. Not helping. Paul knows where to go. He has to want it. Living in Ireland, the drink is going to be there all the time. When I come back I get a bit of a buzz for two or three days. I think it™s embedded in us. This thing, let™s get out, there™s something on here and there. Drink. It™s in the air.
They had an end-of-season do the other night in Ipswich. Paul Merson was the guest speaker. He™s been down that road pretty far. Made Keane think.
œEspecially when you stop playing and you are getting up for the day and there is no buzz, you need it. It™s a problem. It™s there, especially in the Irish players, I notice. In my short time in management I notice that just about every incident we have had to deal with that is drink-related, it is Irish lads. It™s an issue with Irish players. Always.