Last updated : 14 April 2004 By Editor


'Since our initial meeting following my appointment 15 months ago, when the player had clearly indicated his desire to play for Ireland, we have been in occasional contact.

'The issue for him was establishing a basis by which his club, Manchester United, would facilitate that desire. Roy Keane had to resolve that problem himself.

'A number of weeks ago, I spoke about the fact that there were some Irish players playing at the top level who had chosen, for a variety of reasons, to retire from international football.

'Playing for the international team is demanding. It involves hard work when you are free of your contractual obligations with your club.

'It involves working with a different management team that has set ideas which may well be different to those which you experience at the club.

'To represent your country is, however, to my judgement, the greatest honour any athlete can experience.

'It was for that reason I wanted all those players who had retired early to know that it would be possible to make themselves available again in the event that they ever had a change of heart.

'I am glad that one of the greatest players ever to play for Ireland has chosen this path. It cannot have been an easy decision for him but his desire to represent his country is immense.

'We met last week and discussed everything about his decision in great detail.

'He had addressed the issue with his club before that meeting and they are aware of his decision to make himself available for international duty with immediate effect.

'I look forward to working with Roy Keane. He brings quality and experience to a potentially excellent squad of players whose sole focus is the World Cup qualifying matches next autumn'