Former Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy has told talkSPORT his public spat with Roy Keane at World Cup 2002 led to one of the loneliest moments he experienced in football.
A dispute, over whether their preparation had been professional enough, led to the Manchester United legend being sent home from their pre-tournament camp in Saipan.
The decision, and loss of such an integral player to the squad, split the Irish support with some taking the side of the manager and others going with Keane.
And with the ramifications of the controversy overshadowing the tournament, McCarthy told talkSPORT’s My Sporting Life he wasn’t ready for the reaction of supporters, whether good or bad, ahead of their opening match against Cameroon.
Instead of greeting the travelling faithful, he remained in his dugout in an attempt to snuff out the story.
And he admitted the experience was tough but necessary in the extenuating circumstances.
“It was a difficult time because of everything else that was going on,” McCarthy revealed.
“I remember the first game against Cameroon. I can honestly say seldom have I ever felt as lonely as I did that day. Walking out onto the pitch and our fans are behind the goal.
“I wasn’t quite sure [how they felt]. It was mixed messages coming through to me about whether I did right or whether I did wrong. I had my own views and I still have and I though, I’m not going over there [to get cheered or abused]. I’m not prepared for either. I left the lads to go over there. I sat in the dugout let them all get on with it.
“I didn’t think it was appropriate at the time because then it would become about me and I didn’t want want that.”
After putting his team and his country before himself, McCarthy’s side claimed a draw with their African opponents.
And he believes what he did enabled his side to get to the second round of the World Cup where they were eventually knocked out by Spain on penalties.
“We were 1-0 down and then Matty Holland equalises,” he continued. We played well in that game against Cameroon. Against a really good Cameroon side as well.
“You could see then, afterwards, it was about the football. It was about how we were going to play and it didn’t matter who the personalities were, it was the team and it was about the winning and that’s what I wanted it to be and that’s how it turned out.
“Although there was always that in the background, believe me.”
You can listen to My Sporting Life on Sunday at 8pm on talkSPORT