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)