91 of 92 Clubs Missed Out - The Roy Keane Story

The Journey to Mill Lane Palmerstown

Mill Lane remains an isolated venue tucked away from the busy suburban life it’s surrounded by. The venue is located in Palmerstown, Ireland on the edge of South side Dublin City centre. A quite venue in a valley surrounded by trees adjacent to a river which flows quietly alongside the grass pitches. The venue resembles a quite country side location, back in the late 1980’s this was more than a 268km drive away from Roy Keane’s family home in Mayfield county Cork. The fact that Roy Keane’s first experience of full time training was in Mill Lane and the sacrifice he made to train there for almost a full season bares testament to the determination the young man had to succeed as a professional footballer. Keane trained Monday to Friday in Mill Lane on an FAI (Football Association of Ireland) FAS Course which catered for aspiring young footballers. At the time Keane was living out of digs in nearby Leixlip, he would travel back to his native Cork on weekends to compete in the League of Ireland for a club by the name of Cobh Ramblers. This was only the beginning of a long journey with many sacrifices along the road to greatness for Keane.


Roy Keane was a small boy, very frail but by all accounts more than capable of given as good as he got physically. As early as age nine the ambition within Keane was evident. The young Keane chose to join a club by the name of Rockmount AFC over his local team in Mayfield. Keane done so in the hope of winning trophies. Rockmount is a superb schoolboy club who had long since been established as a successful side throughout various age groups by the time Keane arrived. Roy Keane even at nine years of age was hungry for challenge, he began playing for the U11 team at Rockmount two years above his own age group. Keane was a very dedicated young man who seemed driven to become a top footballer, something quite rare for one so young. John Delea who is a well regarded Rockmount AFC chairman recalls the young Roy Keane by stating “he never missed training, never missed it, he loved training. His team was managed by the late Gene O'Sullivan, people like Timmy Murphy, Tom Cronin and Mick Keating were also part of managing that Rockmount golden generation”

A young ambitious Roy Keane

A young ambitious Roy Keane

Golden Generation for Rockmount AFC

From U12 all the way to U17 Roy Keane’s Rockmount AFC side went unbeaten. Six years of dominance at local level in Cork culminated in no less than six double winning seasons. Munster and national competitions was the only taste of defeat the team endured during a golden generation of Rockmount AFC schoolboys. Five of Roy Keane’s Rockmount AFC schoolboy side also won the prestigious Kennedy Cup competition in 1986. Someone had the foresight to take an iconic snap of Len Downey, Damien Martin, Roy Keane, Paul and Alan O'Sullivan before that final.

The Cream of the Crop

The Cream of the Crop


In spite of all the success at schoolboy level Roy Keane could only look on as teammates embarked on trials across the water to England. Roy wasn’t capped at international level for Ireland until he was U16, John Delea believing managers of the national side had loyalties with their own players “Roy wasn’t capped until he was U16, he had great potential but obviously managers of the various Irish teams picked their own people”.

Looking for an Opportunity

By 17 years of age Roy Keane was desperate for an opportunity to become a professional footballer. He met with then semi pro club Cork City in a pub and had agreed to sign until the intervention of Alfie Hale who was manager of Cobh Ramblers at the time. Keane was eventually signed on professional terms before he could be lost to Cork City. The year Keane joined Cobh there was an FAI Fas course running in Dublin, Palmerstown that catered for aspiring young footballers with full time training. To get a place on the course you had to be playing for a League of Ireland club. The rule was that no more than one player from a League of Ireland club could feature on the course. Cork City already had a player joining the course and Cobh didn’t, this helped to convince Keane that Cobh Ramblers was the right move for him.

92 letters & Only One Reply

As mentioned at the top of this article Keane would live in Dublin training full time out of Mill Lane Palmerstown whilst travelling to play for Cobh Ramblers at weekends once he began the FAI Fas course. His manager Alfie Hale could see that Keane had ambition and exceptional talent but in spite of Hale making a recommendation to West Brom and Tottenham Hotspur to come watch Roy Keane play, neither club followed up on the advice. Roy Keane himself was determined to have a trial across the water in England. Keane wrote to no fewer than 92 English football clubs desperate for an opportunity for a trial. A few years previous Roy had also sought trials and almost secured one at Brighton only for the trial to be cancelled the day before Keane was due to fly over. Word was given to Brighton that Roy Keane was “too small” to become a footballer. Of the 92 letters Roy Keane sent only one response was returned. The club was by the name of Nottingham Forrest, the rest as they say is history.