ROY Keane might be nursing a sore hip at the moment, but that is unlikely to have prevented him dancing an Irish jig of delight last night at Mick McCarthy's demise.

"Hip hip hooray!" an incapacitated Keane might have roared after winning the war of attrition with the Republic of Ireland's erstwhile coach.

McCarthy, who committed the cardinal sin of falling out with his best player, enjoyed a reprieve following his side's wondrous exploits in the World Cup.

Two deeply damaging defeats later, however, and his position after nearly seven years in charge was untenable.

As strange as it may seem, a comment from Steve McClaren last Friday after he abdicated as Sven-Goran Eriksson's right-hand man seems so apposite when deciding McCarthy's epitaph.

"I should have gone after the World Cup," McClaren said, "but I let my heart rule my head."

For McClaren and England, read McCarthy and Ireland.

He returned home from Korea a hero; he is now seen as a villain by a significant proportion of the Emerald Isle's footballing public.

Had he resigned in the wake of that unfortunate World Cup exit at the hands of Spain, his reputation would be untarnished.

Having picked up the ultimate poisoned chalice in replacing Jack Charlton, who took Ireland into unchartered soccer waters, McCarthy had helped his country punch above their weight.

But instead of being feted for his achievements, he left his position last night to a chorus of "good riddance" rather than "best wishes".

And all because he fell out with a man who called him "an English ****" and told him to "stick it up your ********".

No matter what the rights and wrongs of the argument were, McCarthy was fighting a losing battle from the moment Keane made his first appearance on Irish soil since walking out on his country's World Cup assault.

As he played for Manchester United in a friendly with Shelbourne in July, the vast majority of the home fans in Dublin displayed their total approval for Ireland's former captain.

A difficult trip to Russia ended with a convincing loss that kept the Keane issue alive, and McCarthy was starting to realise that the midfielder would continue to cast his formidable shadow over the Republic's footballing fortunes.

As his critics gleefully prepared his obituaries, the final straw came with the late defeat at the hands of Switzerland.

It was a result that Keane could not have prevented, given that at the time he was recuperating from his hip operation. But it mattered not one jot.

No individual is supposedly bigger than the team.

McCarthy has found out to his cost, however, that Keane enjoys that lofty status in Ireland.