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)

Polish loss will be a ‘big dent’ – O’Neill

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Martin O'Neill

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill has admitted that defeat to Poland in tomorrow night’s crucial Euro 2016 qualifier at the Aviva Stadium will be a ‘big dent’ to the goal of automatic qualification for next summer’s tournament in France.

Speaking to media today in Malahide, O’Neill said that defeat tomorrow night ‘will be a big dent in proceedings’ in group D and his squad know that they ‘have to try and win the game.’

‘The importance of the occasion shouldn’t be missed. We played four games now and we’ve picked up seven points. I am delighted to have got something in the Germany game. Brilliant effort. Disappointing to lose at Scotland. I said all along the games at home will shape our destiny. This is the first one of a group of games. Nevertheless, a very important one against a team who have started brilliantly in the competition. It might not decide everything but it will be very important,” said the Republic’s manager.

The manager acknowledged that he has a far idea of who will be in his starting eleven but refused to divulge any names, keeping his cards close to his chest. He will name his team tomorrow ahead of the 7:45pm kick-off.

There were also mentions based on comments made by former Ireland player and assistant manager, Liam Brady, about James McCarthy and his passion in playing for the ‘Boys in Green.’

When these comments were put to him, O’Neill was adamant in his response, ‘I don’t need to question anyone’s passion for playing for Ireland. I genuinely feel that. We might not perform as well but that doesn’t mean players don’t want to play. Absolutely not,’ said O’Neill. He also noted McCarthy’s injury record and the fact the midfielder has only played once for Ireland in the past year (against Georgia last year).

O’Neill was also grilled about his starting formation. This morning’s early training session seemed to suggest a 3-5-2 formation with Stoke’s Jonathan Walters partnering captain Robbie Keane up front. The manager didn’t confirm or deny the formation. Rather, he noted that he and his staff must be aware that of any changes made to the system, the players must also be aware of it and be prepared to adapt. The manager seemed happy in the knowledge that his side were comfortable regardless of whatever system they may use.

He again repeated the point of adaptability when questioned if a 3-5-2 formation would suit Hull City’s Robbie Brady. He pointed to the fact that Brady has played in multiple formations due to his club side’s frequency to change things around.

Keane was full of praise for his potential partner, Walters. The captain said, ‘You know exactly what you get with Jon. He is very, very honest player. He makes it hard for defenders. He doesn’t give them a minute. He scores goals as well. Aside from that, he is a great person to have around. He is a good leader and it’s important to have players like that around the squad.’

As for Poland, the captain stressed that he wasn’t worried about them and that the team know everything about their opposition. He stated that it is now just a case for the players to turn up on the day and perform to the best of their ability. The captain is hoping to be named in tomorrow’s starting eleven, 17 years this week since his international debut against the Czech Republic.

Asked if Robert Lewandowski was the one Polish player to watch out for. O’Neill stressed that the opposition were not a one-man show and they had plenty of talent, capable of causing trouble to his side.

O’Neill told reporters, ‘I think he is a top class player and one of the best strikers in European football. He is playing for a side [Bayern Munich] that is capable of winning any competition in Europe. He is very, very important to them but he is not the only player.’

‘We have seen this in the group, they are not a one-man team. They have got a number of top quality individuals playing in the side, who are able to create things for them. I agree I wouldn’t just get carried away with the one player.’

Despite O’Neill’s comments to the contrary, tomorrow night’s result is make or break for this campaign. A win will help the Republic of Ireland’s cause in group D and will give them momentum heading into the next set of games in the summer. A loss will probably all but rule out Ireland of automatic promotion and they will, most likely, battle it out with Scotland for third place and a spot in the play-offs.

O’Neill ‘delighted’ with assistant Keane

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Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane at Republic of Ireland training

Original article appears on Pundit Arena.

Ahead of Tuesday’s friendly match with the USA, most of the discussion at today’s press conference with Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill was around his assistant manager Roy Keane and his actions of late. O’Neill was quick to defend Keane but seem irked at having to talk about his assistant rather than the players and the game ahead.

The Toffees not so sweet

At a press conference on Sunday evening, Keane blasted Everton for their behaviour in regards to releasing players to the Irish squad in particular Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy. Asked if his comments will have a distraction on the team, O’Neill said, “Every single time that you mention Roy, there either seems to be a distraction or another issue. Let me tell you straight, I’m delighted to have him. He has been terrific, really terrific. He has been great around the lads, he has been everything I wanted him to be.”

“There are some things that materialise, that aren’t of his doing to begin with. He has a mind of his own, He can say what he wants. Unless, it is absolutely and utterly in contradiction in what I’m saying to you then I do not have a problem with it. It is not an issue all the time,” said the manager.

Speaking about Keane’s comments regarding the club, Everton chairman Bill Kenwright, speaking to Sky Sports, said “I am a big fan of Roy Keane but he does say some stupid things. That is just totally, totally unfair. We absolutely love our players going on international duty. We would never, ever get in that way of that. Roberto Martinez will be as shocked as everyone at Everton Football Club.”

When made aware of Kenwright’s comments, and asked if he will speak to the Everton manager, O’Neill responded, “I think that I will talk [talk to him]. It is not my job to read the newspapers every single morning. Honestly, I have other things at this minute to do. I’m not saying they are more important but they are issues I have to address. So, I might get a chance to go down there and find out exactly what was said on both sides and then I will take a view.”

Grealish indecision

The manager was also asked about comments made by Roy Keane about Jack Grealish and his father over the young Aston Villa winger’s indecision to choose between the Republic of Ireland and England. Speaking to the media yesterday, Keane said, “I don’t ask Jack anymore. Sometimes it’s respect, you don’t want to pester people but, unfortunately, a lot would be coming from Jack’s dad. Knowing his dad, we could be waiting a bloody long while.”

Speaking about Keane’s comments, the manager said, “I have spoken to Jack and his father some time ago. They were not in any great hurry at that particular time. I left it entirely up to them. If Jack pulls out of the U-21’s and wants to concentrate on his club football, good luck to him. I understand Roy is not going to be running around there asking Jack’s father every single day has he made his mind up, let them decide themselves.”

Pushed on the topic and asked if the sentiment of the message was not pleasant, there was an awkward silence in the room as O’Neill felt he did not need to add to what he had already said.

Christie and McGoldrick set for Irish debuts

In terms of Tuesday’s game, O’Neill confirmed that both Robbie Keane and Darron Gibson will miss out, with both returning to their clubs. Gibson is out due to a slight knee injury. Keane has returned to LA Galaxy to prepare for their MLS Western Conference Championship game this weekend.

Newcomers to the squad, Cyrus Christie and David McGoldrick will start the game according to the manager. Asked about whether or not it was a relief to have a natural right back in the shape of Christie in the squad, O’Neill commented, “Yeah, very much so. That’s something we are looking at obviously. Of course, there is young [Matt] Doherty at Wolves and [Brian] Lenihan as well who has just gone out on loan. I have seen a lot of Cyrus play and I think that he has shown a real keenness to come and join us, which is good. I think he is looking forward to it and at least, it is a natural position for him rather than having to make do with David [Meyler] at full back.”

Tuesday’s game will undoubtedly be a great test for an Irish squad that is low on morale after the agonising defeat to Scotland. However, it will be interesting to see if players like Christie and McGoldrick can take their opportunity to start with both hands and stake a claim for the next qualifier against Poland in March. O’Neill believed it will be a good test for a number of players that didn’t feature on Friday night’s defeat. A win and a good performance against the American’s, even if it is only a friendly, will be a small boost ahead of the crunch match against the Poles next year.

 

Keane expects a tough German response

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Roy KeaneOriginal article appears on Pundit Arena.

The Republic of Ireland squad were in good spirits this morning as they had a brief training session after last night’s demolition job of Gibraltar. The sole focus is now on the trip to Gelsenkirchen on Tuesday where they will meet Germany.

The World Champions suffered a shock defeat to Poland in Warsaw last night and questions will be asked in the Irish camp if they too can inflict another shock defeat to the Germans. Asked about the result and if the Germans were vulnerable, assistant manager, Roy Keane shrugged off any suggestion that home side will give anything less than 100% on Tuesday. “Football is not like that. Poland looked pretty decent and it really doesn’t change our mind-set. We know it’s going to be a very, very tough game for us,” said the assistant manager.

Asked if the loss of big name players like Philipp Lahm and Miroslav Klose has affected the German side, Keane was again adamant that the Germans would be still favourites to top Group D. “No. Obviously there is going to be changes there with new players coming into the group but they still have that quality and history behind them, they’re at home and they won their first game. So, I don’t think the Germans will be panicking. Far from it, I expect them to still be favourites to top the group,” commented Keane.

“It happens, you can lose football matches. You’d obviously expect a response from Germany at home. So it makes it even tougher. We’d expect Germany coming out firing on all cylinders so we just have to be ready for that,” said Keane on the anticipation that the Germans will be looking to make a statement against the Irish.

Roy also had praise for his namesake Robbie with the captain scoring his 63rd, 64th and 65th international goals on Saturday. The striker now sits atop of the all time scorers in European Championship qualifying history with 21. Roy said he always knew the Irish captain had it in him to be one of the best Irish players in history.

There were some injuries to report with Richard Keogh pulling out of the squad due to a hamstring injury while Daryl Murphy sat out the training session with an Achilles problem but Keane suggested that this was just a recovery rather than an injury that can rule him out of contention for Tuesday’s match.

As Keane suggested today, the Irish team should embrace the occasion on Tuesday rather than fear it. A lot of the talk about this group has been about Germany running away with the group. However, last night they showed that they are indeed there for the taking.

Granted, the Polish have a stronger side than the Irish and the Germans will be looking to fire back after Saturday night’s defeat but with the Irish going into the match with six points from six and confidence high in the group, the Irish could come away from the Veltins-Arena with a valuable point that will definitely shake things up in these qualifiers.

Republic of Ireland run riot in the Aviva

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Republic of IrelandOriginal article appears on Pundit Arena.

It was over before it began with the Republic of Ireland tearing apart Gibraltar 7-0 at the Aviva Stadium. It was a good days work for Robbie Keane in particular. The evergreen captain was on fine form as he scored a hat trick in just 18 minutes against the minnows. Goals from James McClean, Wes Hoolahan and a bizarre own goal from Gibraltar keeper, Jordan Perez sealed the victory for the Irish.

Manager Martin O’Neill, had warned against complacency in the build up to this game and his team didn’t disappoint in the opening exchanges with the Irish racking up 50 passes in just under five minutes. The Irish piled the pressure on the Gibraltar defence and they were rewarded for their positive start on the sixth minute when Man of the Match, Wes Hoolahan hit a long ball to Aiden McGeady on the edge of the right side of the box. The Everton winger laid it to Keane who had no problem putting the ball in the back of the net and starting off the evening’s proceedings.

Hoolahan was involved again in the build up to the second and third goal to set up Keane to earn his 64th and 65th goals respectively. The Norwich City man took a lofted pass on to his chest before passing the ball through for Keane’s run, who slotted home past Perez. Minutes later, Perez clattered into Hoolahan after failing to clear a shot efficiently. Keane stepped up and the hat trick was complete.

With those three goals, Keane now becomes the top scorer in European Championship qualifying history at 21 goals and now stands 12th in the overall international scorers list on 65 goals with Didier Drogba.

Hoolahan wasn’t to be denied a goal though after a wonderful performance. On the 56th minute, Keane laid the ball into his path. After skipping through an awful defence, he capped off the move with an easy, low shot to the near post that went past Perez.

O’Neill was happy with Hoolahan’s contribution in the game. “Wes did very, very well. Wes here at the Aviva has never failed to play well and he is good, particularly in a night like this here when we are looking for that little bit of craft to break defences down,” said the Irish manager.

The Gibraltar keeper, Perez, was already having a bad day before a sensational own goal added salt to the wound. Robbie Keane’s attempted chip was batted away by the keeper with the ball landing to McGeady. The midfielder’s shot bounced back from defender on the line with the ball. The ball landed at the feet of Perez, who, one can only presume, tried to clear the ball but instead hoofed it into his own net. I had to look around and make sure I was at the Aviva and not at home playing a game of FIFA.

After conceding two more goals, McClean’s second of the night and Hoolahan’s goal, Perez was hauled off by manager Allen Bula. The entire crowd at the Aviva were on its feet as the hapless keeper made his way off.

The Irish will unquestionably be satisfied with this win ahead of their visit to Germany on Tuesday night. However, all eyes will now be on that trip. There were many positives in the game but there were also glimpses in the game that showed the home side lacking concentration especially in the latter part of the game when Gibraltar were unlucky to at least come away from this game with a goal. Do this against the Germans and it could be the Irish that end up on the wrong side of a mauling.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Forde, Ward (Brady 69’), Wilson, O’Shea, Meyler, McGeady, Hendrick, Gibson, McClean, Hoolahan (Doyle 63’), Keane (C) (Murphy 63’)

Substitutes: Elliot, Westwood, Clark, Whelan, Long, Pilkington, Stokes, Quinn, Walters
Goals: Keane (6’, 14’, 18’), McClean (46’, 53’), Perez OG (52’), Hoolahan (56’)

GIBRALTAR: J.Perez (Robba 59’), Wiseman, R.Casciaro, R.Chipolina (C) (Santos 57’), J.Chipolina, Payas, B.Perez, Bado (Guilling 45’), Walker, Gosling, L.Casciaro

Substitutes: Coleing, Artell, K.Casciaro, Lopez, Sergeant, Priestley, Bosio, Garcia, Hernandez

Referee: Leontios Trattou (Cyprus)

Man of the Match: Wes Hoolahan

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