Robbie Keane reveals what he told teammates after his final Ireland game

Robbie Keane signed off from his Republic of Ireland career urging the players he leaves behind never to take representing their country for granted.

On an emotional night at the Aviva Stadium, the 36-year-old striker collected his 146th cap and his 68th international goal - in the process equalling German great Gerd Muller's tally - in a 4-0 friendly victory over Oman.

But, as he reflected on a career spanning more than 18 years, he reminded his now former colleagues of exactly what it means to pull on the green shirt as they prepare for Monday's opening World Cup qualifier in Serbia and he watches from afar.

Robbie Keane salutes the crowd after playing his final game for Ireland. Pic: INPHO/Gary Carr
Robbie Keane salutes the crowd after playing his final game for Ireland. Pic: INPHO/Gary Carr

Keane said: "I said a few words to the players after the game and told them, 'Never underestimate putting that green jersey on because it's the best feeling in the world'. It has been for me for 18 years.

"We're very fortunate that we have a group of players in there who are desperate to play for their country and turn up when given the nod. I think the future is certainly bright.

"I said to them in there, I wish them well in the game Monday and certainly in the qualifications. We have a great chance and a good team spirit amongst the players. I wished the manager and the staff all the best in the future going forward.

"I'll be watching now as a fan, which will be strange. I was always a fan but to watch it now sitting back and not being involved after (almost) 19 years will be strange. But I think this group of players will do well."

Keane, who was given a standing ovation by a crowd of 27,300 when he was replaced by Wes Hoolahan 12 minutes after half-time, scored with a trademark volley and celebrated acrobatically on the half-hour in a fitting conclusion to his time with the national team.

Asked how he felt when he pulled on the jersey for the last time, he said: "I didn't really think about it too much because all the players were asking me to sign their jerseys. I was there for 20 minutes signing the lads' jerseys, so it didn't really hit me.

"It's something I'll think about in the next few days, and it will hit me in the next few days, weeks or months. Certainly when you're watching the players in the game on Monday... but it hasn't sunk in too much."

Robbie Brady opened the scoring with an eighth-minute free-kick and Jonathan Walters collected a double either side of the break to see off Oman.

But, for all the game was in part preparation for the Serbia fixture, manager Martin O'Neill admitted it was really all about Keane.

He said: "It's a great end for him. He was obviously quite emotional, really, about it. As he has mentioned in the last couple of days, he has loved playing for the Republic of Ireland and it was a great send-off.

"It was nice of the crowd to wait around for him at the end - they could have gone home. It was good and he got his goal.

"He's drawn level with Gerd Muller. What a record that is - fantastic. I'll not see it broken in my lifetime. Even the youngest in the room here won't see it either.

"It's been a great effort, a great career and (Wednesday night) was really about him."

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