Coming from Mayfield meant that Roy Keane was born to play sports, the soccer legend told RTÉ’s The Tommy Tiernan Show this weekend.
The first guest of the first instalment of the show’s seventh season, Keane said his northside childhood had been the making of him.
“We talk about luck in the game, the luck I had since I was a kid, obviously, I come from a good background, obviously I’m a Keane, my mother’s a Lynch, growing up in Cork, a great sporting city, so no matter where I turned to, there would have been the family connection, they’re all involved in sport, obviously very much soccer,” he told Tommy Tiernan.
He said he wouldn’t describe his childhood neighbourhood as “a bit rough”, but he smiled at the memory of his own children being “a bit unsure” about the area in which he was born and bred.
He spoke fondly of his time with Rockmount, and Cobh Ramblers, and he said that his own competitiveness was fuelled by the fact he wasn’t technically a very good player, a claim with which few on Leeside would agree.
The format of the Tommy Tiernan Show, where the host does not know who his guests are until they walk on stage, has allowed for some interesting encounters in the past, and the programme has benefitted in the years since Covid-19 from the lack of a live studio audience, giving interviews a greater intimacy in the sparse surroundings of an empty studio.
On meeting Keano, Tommy Tiernan confessed that he had always thought that he would interview him, and he had clearly put some thought into his questions, but he still struggled to break down the Cork man’s famously impassive defences.
Clearly frustrated at Keane’s sometimes monosyllabic responses, Tiernan snapped when Keane said he didn’t find fatherhood very challenging.
“Are you f***ing kidding me, are you?” Tiernan said, giggling. When told he was “guarded”, Keane asked if his host wanted him to do “a somersault or something”.
The return, post-pandemic, of a live studio audience worked sometimes against the format, and the tension of an instinctively cagey Keane avoiding Tiernan’s attempts to get behind the mask was routinely broken by nervous laughter from the crowd.
Still, it was vintage Keane, with long silences and terrifying stares leavened by his trademark twinkle, and, as always, he came across as a deep and thoughtful man, but also someone with a deadpan sense of mischief.
As a person who has never courted the limelight, he admitted that he is wary of people “crossing the line” with him, and he said he is careful to establish boundaries.
In a rare discussion on his private life, he spoke about the first time he met his wife, Theresa (“Obviously, there was drink involved”).
Their first date was a disaster, and he related the story with obvious relish.
“We met, I picked her up … and when I’d met her when I had a few drinks so the chat was slightly different. We went for a spin and I said, ‘Do you fancy going to the pictures?’ Because at least at the pictures you can just watch the movie, you don’t have to chat too much.
“She said ‘No’,” he recalled, casting his eyes to heaven. “She said ‘No, I went last night with my friends’. I went ‘There’s other movies on, you know’.
“So I said, ‘Do you want to go for a drink?’ She said ‘No, no.’ “So, I literally drove back to the car, this is all within 10 or 15 minutes. She said, ‘What are you doing?’ “I said, ‘Well, you don’t want to go for a drink, you don’t want to go to the pictures, what else can we do?’ “And she got out and I said, ‘Might see you next week’ and she said ‘I don't think so’ and slammed the door. That was my first date.
“And we’re still married, yeah,” he said to laughter from the audience.
Asked if he is still off the drink, the Mayfield man replied: “Don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t do drugs, and I don’t sleep with other women, but I’ve a few other bad habits, let me tell you.”
Urged by the host to elaborate, there was the ghost of a smile as Keane conceded “Chocolate, I love me chocolate”.