Keane's apology is little comfort

Republic of Ireland 0 Portugal 1
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As the Republic of Ireland went down to a last-minute goal from Portugal's Antonio Folha last night, the man who had dominated the build-up to the game apologised for his absence.

In a statement, the Manchester United midfielder Roy Keane explained why he had failed to appear with the rest of the squad as they prepared for the game, but stressed that he was ready to play when the World Cup qualifiers begin in the autumn.

"Roy Keane regrets the publicity which has arisen during the last few days following his request to be excused from the fixtures which the Irish international team are playing during the summer," the statement ran. "Such a request on his part was no more than that made by several other senior members of the international squad following an arduous season in the Premiership.

"Contrary to statements made in some sections of the media, there is no absence of commitment on Roy's part to playing for his country, which he regards as the highest honour for any sportsman. Furthermore, he has an excellent relationship with his manager, Mick McCarthy, which he would not wish to see damaged by the recent adverse press reports. In an effort to avoid further inaccurate press comment, Roy would like to make it clear that, prior to leaving for Italy following the FA Cup final for a few days' holiday, he endeavoured to make contact by telephone with Mick McCarthy. But when his efforts proved unsuccessful, a message was left with the Football Association of Ireland.

"It is Roy's earnest wish that he now be left to enjoy, with his family, a few weeks' break from football and to resume playing for his country in a few months' time in the World Cup qualifying competition."

In the game itself, what began as an evenly-contested affair in the first half deteriorated into little more than a practice match in the second, before Folha's shot from more than 22 yards, deep into injury time, gave the visitors an undeserved victory.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Given (Blackburn Rovers); Fleming (Middlesbrough), Phelan (Chelsea), Kernaghan (Manchester City), Cunningham (Wimbledon), Kenna (Blackburn), Townsend (Aston Villa), McLoughlin (Portsmouth), Connolly (Watford), Cascarino (Marseille), Farrelly (Aston Villa). Substitutes: Savage (Millwall) for Farrelly, 60; O'Neill (Norwich) for Connolly, 63; Quinn (Manchester City) for Cascarino, 75; Breen (Birmingham) for Kernaghan, 88.

PORTUGAL: Vitor Baia (Porto), Paulinho Santos (Porto), Helder (Benfica), Oceano (Sporting Lisbon), Fernando Couto (Parma), Tavares (Boavista), Vitor Paneira (Guimaraes), Joao Pinto (Benfica), Folha (Porto), Dimas (Benfica), Cadete (Celtic). Substitutes: Sa Pinto (Sporting Lisbon) for Vitor Paneira, h-t, Porfirio (Uniao Leiria) for Oceano, 67, Secretario (Porto) for Cadete, 73.

Referee: C Detruche (Switzerland).