Robbie Seals His Goodbye With A Goal

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Robbie Keane

It was the night that the Republic of Ireland said goodbye to one of its true legends. After 146 caps and 68 goals for his country, Robbie Keane wore the famous green jersey for the last time. Ireland’s record goalscorer came into this match needing a single goal to equal Gerd Müller’s tally in the all-time international goalscorer list. 4 goals and he would have broken the top 10. One goal was all that was needed as the Irish captain sent the crowd into a frenzy. It was all that the crowd, press, the management and Keane himself wanted – the perfect send off.

The Irish captain was knocking on the door in the early stages of the game and came close a couple of times. The best of the bunch being a chip over Oman goalkeeper, Faiz Al Rushaidi after a one-on-one. However, the effort just went inches over the bar. It would have been the perfect goal and send off for the Keane. However, he wasn’t to be denied. Already a goal up after a splendid Robbie Brady free-kick in the seventh minute, Keane scored with a nice little volley after lifting the ball over defender Mabrook with his right foot and without taking his eyes off the ball, he connected again with his right foot and there was nothing Al Rushaidi could do as the back hit the back of the net.

Robbie Brady was again getting in on the action and was instrumental in the third goal. His cross in from the left met the head of Walters and it sailed again into the back of the net. The Boys in Green were now in flight mode against their Asian opponents.

Half times saw a number of changes for the home side including Darren Randolph replacing Kieran Westwood between the sticks. A debut cap is still on hold for Dundalk’s Gary Rogers. It could be suggested that tonight’s friendly against such weakened opposition, it would have been ideal for O’Neill to give the keeper some invaluable international experience.

The second half much like the rest of the first half after the third goal went in, was the Irish controlling the game in cruise control. Oman never looked like threatening the Irish goal and the Irish fans kept themselves entertained throughout the rest of the match by recreating Iceland’s now famous “Viking Thunder Clap” and belting out “Oh-Ah Paul McGrath” when the man himself appeared on the big screens in the stadium.

However, the best roar of the night was saved for the man of the hour as Robbie Keane was replaced before the hour mark. All 27,0000 or so who came to wave him off, gave him a standing ovation with a chorus of “Keano!” added in for good measure. It was truly the end of one of the most spectacular international careers in Irish footballing history. The emotion did not override the Tallaght man as he walked off the pitch realising this was the last time he would wear the green shirt of Ireland.

Not long after Keane’s departure, Ireland wrapped up the goals with Jon Walters getting his second of the game. The Stoke forward dribbled past the Oman keeper. His shot from a tight angle went between a defender’s legs before rolling into the net. It was a nice finish to the goal and will no doubt boost Walters confidence going into the game next week against Serbia.

At the final whistle, Keane gave a farewell speech to crowd thanking them for their support throughout the years. Undoubtedly, his spotlight was stolen, all but temporarily, by his youngest son, Hudson. Keane Jr. had the crowd in the palm of his hands as he tried to steal the microphone from his Dad. A chorus of boos rained down as Hudson was removed so the man of the hour could keep talking to his audience.

Keane walked down the tunnel, passing through a guard of honour of his now former teammates. Robbie showed no emotion throughout, admitting at the press conference after that it will probably take a few weeks for it to sink in that he is no longer a Republic of Ireland player.

He was grateful to manager, Martin O’Neill for giving him one last opportunity to pull on the jersey in front of the home crowd. O’Neill, in turn, was happy with the send off his captain received from the home crowd. He praised his international career and believed his goal scoring record won’t be broken for a long time.

The focus now shifts to the trip to Belgrade and the first of the 2018 World Cup qualifying games against Serbia. The manager and players alike will be in a buoyant mood ahead of Monday. They are well aware that this will be a tough group and an away win will be a great start to a long campaign.

REP. OF IRELAND: Westwood (Randolph 45′), Christie, Wilson, Clark, Brady (Ward 45′), Quinn (O’Dowda 64′), Whelan (Hendrick 45′), Arter, Long (McClean 45′), Keane (C) (Hoolahan 57′), Walters

Substitutes: Rogers, Keogh, Murphy, Meyler, Pearce, McShane, O’Kane
Goals: Brady (7′), Keane (29′), Walters (33′, 62′)
Yellow Cards: Wilson (70′)

Oman: Al Rushaidi, Almukhaini, Al Muqbali (Aal Sbdulsalam 87′), Al Saadi, Al Mushaifri (Al Mukhain 45′), Bait, Al Khaldi, Mabrook, Al Malki (Al Shuabi 75′), Saleh, Al Shyadi

Substitutes: Al Rawahi, Al Habsi, E.M. Al Farsi, Al Maashari, Al Fazari, Al Busaidi, Al Jalaboubi, Al Yacqubi, Al Alwai, Al Ghassani, Al Amri, Alfarsi
Yellow Cards: Al Saadi (50′)

Referee: Demetries Masias (CYP)

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After 20 years in the making – it’s a dull draw at Aviva Stadium

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Republic of Ireland

The Republic of Ireland welcomed their visitors, England, to a warm and sunny Dublin for the first time in 20 years. There was a lot of talk in the build up to this fixture regarding the last time the English supporters were in town. Fortunately, the atmosphere this time around in the stands was less volatile. The same could be said on the pitch, as both teams played out a dull scoreless draw that failed to thrill those in attendance at the Aviva Stadium.

The first half was a pretty drab affair but the Boys in Green were the first to go on the attack. Straight from the kick-off the Irish worked the ball into the box, with striker, David McGoldrick having an effort on goal deflected wide by an English defender. The game did not pick up again until the second quarter when Aiden McGeady whipped in a cross from the edge of the box towards McGoldrick, who just couldn’t connect his head to the ball correctly.

It was the Irish who dominated the second quarter of the game, with a few clear-cut chances to put them ahead. Daryl Murphy had two great chances to get on the score sheet. His first, after working his way into the box, he shot low and hard but his effort sailed past, not only England ‘keeper, Joe Hart, but also past the far upright. The second chance came from a Robbie Brady free kick. The whip in came in perfectly for the Ipswich Town striker but he couldn’t connect to it properly and his attempt went wide, not troubling the English defence.

England also had a few chances on goal. Their best effort coming just before half time as Adam Lallana worked his way to the edge of the box. His long-range effort just went over a stretching Kieren Westwood and the crossbar.

The game came to life in the second half and it was England who had the first real attempt at goal. A mistake by defender Marc Wilson gifted Jordan Henderson the ball. The midfielder then laid it off to Wayne Rooney. However, the captain couldn’t get the proper first touch and balled rolled toward a relieved Westwood. A lucky escape for the Irish.

There were numerous chances for both teams throughout the half. Brady troubled Hart with a free kick from the edge of the box. The Manchester City ‘keeper wasn’t able to collect the ball. Instead, it bounced off his chest and out for an Irish corner. Rooney also had a half chance with a free kick on the edge of the area. The captain’s effort, however, was caught by Westwood.

England’s best effort was left to substitute, Andros Townsend. The Spurs man cracked the ball with force just outside of the area. His shot troubled substitute keeper Shay Given, who could only parry the effort.

Harry Arter, making his senior international debut as a substitute, also had a chance on goal. After working the ball forward, the midfielder tried an effort on goal rather then lay the ball to a teammate. His effort didn’t trouble Hart as it flew across the box and past the goal.

The game fizzled out towards the end, apart from a few lame efforts from Ross Barkley, which didn’t trouble the Irish defence. It was to end as yet another draw between these sides, the eighth in total.

Speaking after the game, Republic of Ireland manager, Martin O’Neill said the game was good preparation ahead of next week’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Scotland. “It was exactly what we needed. I thought in the last fifteen minutes we were pretty tired looking. We started off brightly in the game and maybe we could have scored a couple of goals. We certainly had a couple of decent chances. Overall, it was good for us and from a physical viewpoint, it couldn’t have been better timed,” said the Irish manager.

O’Neill also suggested the game allowed him to experiment and bring in new faces. “I think that what you do, is you ask the players to give you some problems to try and solve between now and Saturday. Some new faces as well, with Daryl Murphy coming in and eventually, Harry Arter getting on the field of play. So just overall, players to go and try and perform because it is their last opportunity to do so. I think it was a very decent response,” said O’Neill.

Regarding his thoughts on next week’s starting eleven against Scotland, the manager refused to give any details on who might start. Talking about next week’s fixture, O’Neill said, “I will see how the player’s came out of the game physically and certainly during the course of the week we will try and step up training. I was hoping at one stage that I could have got Wes Hoolahan on the field. He has played a number of games and he came late into the squad because he was getting some tests done. While, I’m sure it would have been nice for him to play the last twenty odd minutes, we had run out of substitutes.”

England manager, Roy Hodgson, shared O’Neill’s sentiments that the game was a warm up ahead of the next week’s qualifiers. “I think it was a game both teams needed after the season ending for most of them a good couple of weeks ago or in some cases three weeks ago,” said the England manager.

Hodgson was delighted that the match passed off without incident and that. He also suggested that the Irish will be the happier of the two teams with the result. “The positives for me, were harder to find I think, than they would have been for Martin. Two obvious positives were, the spirit in which the game was played. Competitive, I think both teams were trying to win and the atmosphere in the stadium and the behaviour of the sets of fans was a remarkable positive because it hasn’t always been that way,” said Hodgson.

Asked for a prediction for next week’s match between Republic of Ireland and Scotland, the English manager said, “I think it is going to be a really ding-dong battle next week. I think it is going to be very competitive, very exciting. Obviously, more exciting than today’s game because today’s game was only a friendly. In the game next Saturday, every time the ball is bouncing in your box or the Scottish box, Martin and his staff and Gordon and his staff are going to be really excited, as will the fans. The only prediction I can safely make is that it will be a very, very tight game, very fiercely contested and I don’t expect it to be a 5-4. I expect it more to be a 1-0 or a 2-1.”

The Republic of Ireland will take some positives looking ahead to a crucial Euro 2016 qualifier against Scotland next Saturday as they defended well against an undefeated side in qualifiers, who have scored fifteen goals in five games. John O’Shea is the only injury doubt for the Boys in Green. The Sunderland defender has a problem with his calf but O’Neill is hopeful that he can shake it off in time for next week’s game.

Meanwhile, England will be hoping to continue their undefeated streak in Group E of Euro 2016 qualifiers, as they face second placed Slovenia, away, next Sunday.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Westwood (Given 60′), Wilson, Coleman, O’Shea (C) (McShane 71′), McCarthy (McClean 45′), Hendrick, Whelan (Arter 63′), McGeady, Brady, Murphy (Walters 55′), McGoldrick (Long 45′)

Substitutes: Forde, Randolph, Keogh, Christie, Pearce, Ward, Quinn, Meyler, Hoolahan

ENGLAND: Hart, Jones, Bertrand, Henderson, Cahill (Jagielka 73′), Smalling, Wilshere (Barkley 65′), Milner, Sterling (Townsend 65′), Rooney (C) (Vardy 73′), Lallana (Walcott 82′)

Substitutes: Green, Heaton, Gibbs, Delph, Austin, Cleverley, Clyne

Referee: Arnold Hunter (Northern Ireland)

Boys in Green impress against Team USA

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Robbie Brady

Original article appears on Pundit Arena.

The Republic of Ireland put their Euro 2016 qualifier defeat behind them with a fine 4-1 victory over the USA in the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday night. Two goals from Robbie Brady and a goal each for Anthony Pilkington and James McClean helped the Irish overcome an attacking American side, who were inadequate in front of goal.

On what was a cold and windy night at the Lansdowne Road venue, Ireland manager, Martin O’Neill made a clean sweep and put out an entirely different starting eleven compared to the team that lost to Scotland last Friday. Debuts were handed to Cyrus Christie at right back, while, David McGoldrick partnered his Ipswich Town teammate, Daryl Murphy up front.

The Boys in Green got off to a great start when McGoldrick played a lovely through ball to Anthony Pilkington. The Cardiff City midfielder completed the move a lovely chip over the keeper with the ball resting at the back of the net and earning him his first international goal. 1-0 Ireland in the opening ten minutes.

Team USA didn’t falter though. They consistently attacked the Irish end and their offense paid off just before half time. A poor attempted pass by Irish captain David Meyler was picked up by the Americans and played into the box. An attempted clearance landed to USA captain, Jozy Altidore, whose cross was met by the head of Chris Wondolowski. The header was met by Mix Dsikerud with the Rosenborg midfielder rising up to slot the ball past Shay Given.

Altidore could have put his side into the lead just before the stroke of half time when his shot crashed off the crossbar and went over. However, the first half ended with the sides all square with the Irish on the back foot in the latter of the half.

However, Ireland came out to second have rejuvenated. They upped the tempo in their game and went on the attack. Cyrus Christie sent a fine pass up the flank to Pilkington. However, Daryl Murphy couldn’t connect to his cross and it went out of play.

It wasn’t long after when Man of the Match, Robbie Brady got his first goal of the game. The Hull City midfielder played a nice one-two with McGoldrick and his shot went passed USA keeper, Hamid. It was the newcomer’s second assist of the game, not a bad way to cap off your international debut.

The game went back and forth with attempts at both ends with the American finishing leaving a lot to be desired. However, James McClean, who replaced Pilkington mid way through the second half, got Ireland’s third goal after collecting the ball on the edge of the box. With the crowd shouting for him to shoot, McClean obliged. His shot deflected off Geoff Cameron, sending the keeper the wrong way.

Brady completed the scoring with less than five minutes to go. His free kick curling into the top left hand corner of the goal. It was a lovely goal that topped off a solid Irish performance.

Speaking after the game, manager Martin O’Neill was pleased with the result, saying, “It was nice to win the game. I thought it was a bit tentative in the first half. We scored from our first proper attack of the game, a great through ball by David McGoldrick and Pilkington took it well. I thought America really came into the game then and probably deserved their equaliser. I thought the second half performance was really terrific. To score the goals that we did was astounding.“

With a good victory and display behind them, the Republic of Ireland squad can look ahead to the next match, a visiting Polish side. O’Neill was pleased with his squad’s response to the Scotland defeat but they need to bring a display, like that in the second half, with them in March of next year when they host the Group D leaders.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Given (Elliot ’85), Christie, Pearce, Clark, Meyler (C), Quinn, Brady, Pilkington (McClean ’62), Murphy (Hendrick ’77), McGoldrick (Long ’77), Stokes (McGeady 60′)

Substitutes: Randolph, Keogh, Coleman, O’Shea, Walters
Goals: Pilkington (7′), Brady (56′, 87′), McClean (’82)
Yellow CardsMcGeady (90′), Meyler (93′)

USA: Hamid, Morales (Garza ’65), Besler, Diskerud, Bedoya, Beckerman (Ream ’87), Alitdore (C) (Rubin ’76), Wondolowski (Wood 45′), Cameron, Chandler (Morris ’76), F.Johnson

Substitutes: S.Johnson,Ibarra, Green
Goals: Diskerud (39′)
Yellow Cards: Beckerman (37′), Altidore (66′), Cameron (85′)

Referee: Pawel Raczkowski (Poland)

Man of the Match: Robbie Brady

Comfortable victory for Ireland as focus shifts towards Georgia

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Republic of Ireland team celebrateOriginal article appears on Pundit Arena.

The Republic of Ireland started the new season on the right foot as they defeated Oman 2-0 in the final friendly game ahead of Sunday’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Georgia. However, Ireland manager, Martin O’Neill will be questioning why his squad could not put away more of the chances that were handed to his side throughout the 90 minutes.

Wednesday night saw a weakened starting XI with some of the key members of the squad left on the bench ahead of the test that awaits them in Tbilisi this weekend. However, there was a return for Everton’s Darron Gibson made a return to Aviva after being out of the squad for the last 10 months due to a mixture of injury and being disheartened by former manager Giovanni Trapattoni.

The ‘Boys in Green’ started brightly in the opening exchanges as they pressed forward in search of an early goal. However, the Oman defence packed into the box and swatted off any attack on their goal. The Irish then drifted off as Oman went on the attack. An attempted pass by Stephen Quinn was blocked by referee, Illias Spathas, and Raed Saleh picked up the loose ball and paced down the wing and onto the edge of the box. He laid the ball off to Mohammed Al Siyabi, who struck it poorly and went wide of the returning Shay Given.

The first half was marred by some sloppy play by the Irish including a back pass by Robbie Brady to Given that went out of play for a corner. There were plenty of mistimed passes made by the Irish that would have gone punished if against sterner opponents, something that O’Neill must work on ahead of the forthcoming fixtures.

However, the Republic’s game improved slightly after the 19th minute when Brady whipped in a corner that was met by Kevin Doyle. His header sailed passed Wigan Athletic keeper Ali Al Habsi and into the back of the net. The Crystal Palace man marked his 60th game in the green jersey with his 14th international goal.

There were a few more chances in between but nothing could hit the target. The best chance to put the Irish further ahead, lay to David Meyler after Brady’s cross was punched away by Al Habsi and landed at the Hull City man’s feet. His chip bounced off the upright and back into play but was cleared by the Oman defence.

The second half started much like the first ended. However, the pace picked up when the trio of Robbie Keane, Shane Long and Aiden McGeady came on in the 58th minute and gave the Irish the boost it needed. McGeady had a great opportunity to double the Irish lead, 20 minutes into the second period, but the Everton midfielder’s attempt was cleared off the line by Mohammed Al Musalami.

The attacks didn’t stop and the Irish piled on the pressure but the finishing left a lot to be desired. However, on the 81st minute, Brady’s corner was met by captain of the night, Richard Keogh, his slight tap landed to Alex Pearce and the Reading man slotted home a soft shot past Oman’s keeper.

Oman had a few chances as well but their best effort was a long through ball by Hussain Al Hadhri to Saad Al Mukhaini, which was collected by substitute keeper Rob Elliot, who replaced Given for the second half.

After the game, O’Neill commented on the performance and was happy with the win for his squad. “We needed the game and it was nice to win. We would have liked to been further ahead by half time and got the second goal earlier but we played some nice football. My concern would be that when we made a few good passes but it ended with the ball going backwards,” said O’Neill.

O’Neill also comment on the team he had for Sunday with Joey O’Brien and now, James McClean both ruled out of the clash with Georgia through injury. “I was concerned that Joey O’Brien had to go and James McClean is out now too. My concern with James is that he has not had enough game time at Wigan. I want to give him a chance to get ready for later games and not worsen the injury.”

The Ireland manager also admitted he was looking forward to the campaign and mentioned that confidence was high in the camp. “It’s a long road ahead,” claimed O’Neill, “However, we will be ready for it. We won the game tonight and took confidence from it. There was no confidence lost during the summer games. We have only one thing in mind and that is to prepare as best as possible for Sunday.”

With the 4 games before the end of the year, 3 of them away including a trip to World Cup winners Germany, O’Neill and Keane will be happy with tonight’s result but know that there will need to be some improvements ahead of Sunday evening’s game against the Georgians.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Given (Elliot 46’), Meyler (Murphy 85’), Keogh (C), Pearce, Ward, Pilkington (McGeady 58’), Gibson (Whelan 69’), Quinn, Brady, Hoolahan (Keane 58’), Doyle (Long 58’).
Substitutes: Forde, Wilson, Coleman, O’Shea, Stokes.
Goals: Doyle 19’, Pearce 81’
Yellow Cards: Gibson 68’

OMAN: Al Habsi (C), S Al Mukhani, A Al Mukhani, Al Ghailani (Al Busaidi 58’), Al Owaisi, Al Musalani, Al Muhaijri (Al Jabri 58’), Al Farsi (Al Muqbali 80’), Saleh (Al Mashari 86’), Al Siyani, Hardan (Al Qasmi 58’)
Substitutes: Al Rushidi, Al Zaabi, Al Nahar, Al Jalbobi, Al Hadhri, Al Ihsi, Almashari.

Referee: Illias Spathas (Greece)

Man of the Match: David Meyler

Honeymoon is over for the Dream Team as Serbia hand O’Neill his first defeat

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Ireland vs SerbiaThe Dream Team of O’Neill and Keane returned to Dublin but it wasn’t the result they were looking for as the Serbians left with a victory over an Irish team, that at times showed some great skill but was still a work in progress.

It was close to being the perfect start for the Irish after James McClean sent in a cross that was struck well by Glenn Whelan into the back of net. The assistant referee ruled the goal offside after judging that Wes Hoolahan was offside. Hoolahan’s foot grazed the ball before going into the goal. However, replays showed that Hoolahan was played onside by Dušan Basta.

It didn’t take long for Ireland to put pressure on the Serbians once again. That pressure paid off when a mix up in communication between captain, Branislav Ivanović, and keeper, Vladimir Stojković, gifted Shane Long the ball, who, without hesitation, chipped the keeper perfectly to score the opening goal of the game.

Serbia then settled into the game and had a handful of chances at goal including a powerful header from Ivanović that was cleared off the line by James McCarthy.  Dušan Tadić also had a great effort on goal. The FC Twente midfielder’s effort from outside the box had to be tipped over the crossbar by David Forde. The Irish seemed to fall off the pace a bit as halftime approached and would carry this into the second half.

This was evident in the second half as Ireland instantly threw away their lead. Some poor play from Ireland, allowed Serbia to pick up the ball outside the box and Aleksandar Kolarov’s pass forced James McCarthy to attempt a block but instead he put the ball into the back of his own net. It was an unfortunate incident for Everton man, who up to that point was having a good game.

Ireland applied some pressure following the goal and Shane Long will be kicking himself that he didn’t restore Ireland’s lead after a perfect ball from Wes Hoolahan set Long on course for his second goal. However, the Hull City striker scuffed his shot after trying to chip the keeper and the look on his face after his attempt summed up his effort.

The Serbians then got the winning goal following some more poor play from Ireland, which led to a scramble in the box with the ball landing at the feet of Filip Dordević. It was an easy tap in for the striker, who played well throughout his time on the pitch.

Both goals summed up the work that needs to be done when the team meets up again. Seamus Coleman had a disappointing game. The Everton defender seemed to lose the ball easily and it could be argued that he was at fault for both of Serbia’s goals.

There were positives to take away from the game though as the combination of Wes Hoolahan and Shane Long looked promising, James McClean also looked well on the flanks, James McCarthy also performed well in the centre of midfield even with his own goal.

The final score was not what fans were looking for, but as Roy Keane had suggested previously the job at hand is a “work in progress” and that was visible. Another test will come in May, as the Boys in Green take on another higher-ranking team in the shape of Fatih Terim’s Turkey.

We are trying to build spirit and confidence – Keane

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Republic of Ireland training sessionIt was a sunny but cold morning on Dublin’s coast as the Republic of Ireland squad trained at Gannon Park. Manager, Martin O’Neill, and his assistant, Roy Keane, kept a close eye on proceedings in Malahide as the Boys in Green prepared for the clash with Serbia on Wednesday night.

There were few concerns regarding injuries at today’s training session. Damien Delaney suffered a knock in Crystal Palace’s 1-1 draw with Swansea at the weekend and will join up with the squad later today, according to assistant manager Roy Keane.

John O’Shea will also fly into Dublin later today after his side, Sunderland, lost to Manchester City in the Capital One Cup Final on Sunday afternoon. Wes Hoolahan and Anthony Pilkington sat out training due to their participation in Norwich City’s 4-1 loss to Aston Villa on Sunday evening. A game, in which, the former of the two players scored the opening goal of the game.

QPR keeper, Brian Murphy is a late addition to the squad replacing Rob Elliot. The Newcastle keeper misses the game due to a knee problem.

The manager has already lost 4 members of his initial 29-man squad with the withdrawals of Andy Reid, Kevin Doyle and Rob Elliot. O’Neill has rested Richard Dunne so he can get more game time at QPR and be prepared for the end of season friendlies. Andy Reid misses the Serbia game due to surgery on a hernia, which is expected to keep him out of action for up to 6 weeks. Meanwhile, QPR striker, Kevin Doyle has a thigh problem.

Keane praised Reid’s performances of late for Nottingham Forrest. However, he was quick to point out that injuries are part of the game of football. “I’ve seen Reid a few times this year, he has been outstanding. So he is a loss, but that’s the name of the game, players will get injured, particularly at this stage of the season with a lot of demands on them,” said Keane.

When asked about a possible team selection, Keane was quick to respond that the management will have to wait until they hear back from the players and then decided tonight how to dictate training tomorrow ahead of a team selection for Wednesday’s game.

The former Irish captain was asked about the importance of Wednesday night’s match with the high-ranking Serbia but dismissed prioritising games and signalling that each game was as important as the next. “There’s nothing but benefits when winning a game of football”, according to Keane, who also suggested the need to build a spirit before the team goes its separate ways and meets up again at the season’s end.

The assistant manager also shared his thoughts on Ireland’s Euro 2016 qualifying group. Commenting on the group, Keane said, “It’s very tough, but one we are looking forward to. I know I keep saying we are going to be up against some good teams but we are a good team. So roll on September, we’ll be ready.”

Keane also admitted that his new role had changed the way he looked at games. “Obviously, you have a different mind-set. First and foremost when you go to a match, you keep your fingers’ crossed that the lads are playing. I can go to the games and enjoy the contribution the Irish lads have been giving to their teams. Of course, my mind-set is that is my priority. Before, I would just be going to a match as a fan of football and now it is to make sure the Irish lads are getting involved and doing well,” commented Keane.

Ireland’s assistant manager was also asked about his comments midweek about his old club, Manchester United’s performance in the Champions League against Olympiakos and whether he would say the same to the Irish team if they put on a similar performance. The Cork man thought that his comments during the week and any comments he has made in the past be it as pundit or manager have been “fair.”

Keane refused to comment on the incident at the weekend between Hull City midfielder David Meyler and Newcastle United manager, Alan Pardew saying it was, “none of my business.”

Keane was also happy with the improvements made in the Irish set up since he joined with O’Neill late last year. He was pleased with the organisation of the set up and also the number of staff made available to the squad and management. He did admit it was still a work in progress. He was also asked if he rolled his eyes this morning, reading the newspaper reports regarding Mick McCarthy’s comments about Keane’s apology to him about the Saipan incident in 2002. Keane’s reply was simple; “I roll my eyes most mornings.”

The match on Wednesday night in Aviva Stadium will no doubt be an exercise for the management team as they look to September and the opening game of the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign against Georgia. O’Neill will be eager to cast an eye over a range of players as he puts together a squad that will challenge for qualification to the tournament in France from group D.

Serbia have a full strength squad that includes familiar names like Ivanović, Matić, and Kolarov among its ranks. A name that may appear on interim coach, Ljubinko Drulović’s team sheet is that of Stefan Šćepović. The Sporting Gijón forward has scored 17 goals in 26 appearances for his club this season in the Spanish Segunda División.

The game will no doubt be a good test for the Boys in Green as they prepare for the challenge that lies ahead of them in September. A win here will put them in good spirits, as mentioned by Keane and will help build much needed momentum towards Tbilisi on September 7th.

Original story for the The LOI Blog posted here.