The Football Association of Ireland has taken the unusual step of commissioning a full, independent review of the country's World Cup campaign. Although there is every chance of Ireland's achievements on the pitch surpassing expectations, the tournament is more likely to be remembered in future years as the one at which the captain Roy Keane was sent home.
The FAI general secretary Brendan Menton declined yesterday to elaborate on a statement released at the squad's training base, which read: "Irrespective of the outcome of the team's remaining participation in World Cup 2002, the officers and general secretary of the FAI are recommending to their board of management that an independent external review of the Association's organisation and involvement in World Cup 2002 be undertaken upon our return to Ireland. The report will be made public when completed."
It is a brave step to invite an outside body – as yet unnamed – to conduct the inquiry and to publicise its findings in full. There has already been criticism of the FAI's handling of the Keane saga, and in particular, a series of public relations gaffes along the way. They included the publication of a players' statement ostensibly rejecting Keane even as negotiations were under way to invite him back.
As a result, Menton had to fly back from Korea, where he was due to attend a Fifa congress, to help sort things out. He ended up disagreeing in public with the manager Mick McCarthy over whether the matter should be discussed any further.
Although McCarthy was keen to "put some issues straight" at the time, he may be less enthusiastic about a full investigation that will inevitably centre on his falling out with Keane and the way in which subsequent negotiations involving all manner of parties dragged on. Niall Quinn, who emerged as the players' spokesman, has admitted that he made approaches via Keane's solicitor behind the manager's back and was left "shattered and drained" by the experience. If McCarthy were to be criticised by the inquiry, he would probably consider resigning.
But the conduct of FAI officials will also be open to scrutiny and censure. Menton was warned by media representatives months ago that travelling to a modern World Cup with only one veteran press officer was a recipe for trouble. England have three with them at all times.
Keane has criticised the FAI in the past for a lack of professionalism. He was also furious when training kit was not available as the squad arrived in Saipan, because the skips had been mislaid. The former captain would almost certainly be interested in making his views known to any independent body.