Robbie Keane scores in fitting Ireland send-off

Republic of Ireland 4 Oman 0

Robbie Keane bowed out of international football having taking his record goal tally to 68 as the Republic of Ireland trounced Oman.

The 36-year-old drew level with German great Gerd Muller with a 30th-minute volley which rekindled memories of potency during an 18-year Ireland career which is now over after 146 appearances.

Republic of Ireland's Robbie Keane celebrates scoring his side’s second goal. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA
Republic of Ireland's Robbie Keane celebrates scoring his side’s second goal. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

Keane played for 57 minutes and was afforded a fitting send-off when he headed for the touchline to a standing ovation to signal the end of a remarkable era.

His contribution was sandwiched between equally noteworthy performances from Robbie Brady, who fired Martin O'Neill's men into an eighth-minute lead from a sweet free-kick, and Jonathan Walters, who struck either side of the break to remind the nation of his ability to find the back of the net.

Robbie Keane is given a standing ovation as he is subbed off. Pic: INPHO/Tommy Dickson
Robbie Keane is given a standing ovation as he is subbed off. Pic: INPHO/Tommy Dickson

Replacing Keane is a task which O'Neill has had to contemplate during the twilight of the LA Galaxy frontman's career, when he has started less regularly, but as a new campaign looms he now has little choice but to find a solution.

It was a night when Jeff Hendrick's move to Burnley and the fitness of John O'Shea - the Sunderland defender was in the stands - and James McCarthy ahead of Monday night's opening World Cup qualifier in Serbia took a back seat.

Keane was clearly emotional as he walked out ahead of his team-mates with sons Hudson and Robert to be greeted by a relatively sparse, but enthusiastic crowd.

However, once the formalities were over, it was all about the football and the quest for another goal.

Oman striker Abdulaziz al Muqbali was gifted a free header from an early corner and forced keeper Keiren Westwood into a fingertip save.

However, Brady shook off the ring-rust with an expertly-converted eighth-minute free-kick - his third goal in as many games for his country - and as Ireland found a rhythm, the task of providing Keane with the goal he craved became the focus.

Walters risked a word in his ear from O'Neill when he left Shane Long's deflected 14th-minute cross for Keane despite being in a far better position and saw his strike partner's effort smothered.

The skipper lifted a 28th-minute lob over keeper Faiz al Rushaidi but on to the roof of the net, although he did not have to wait too much longer for his chance.

Walters knew instinctively where Keane would be when he helped on Brady's lofted ball and the frontman set himself up with his first touch and dispatched the ball into the net on the volley with his second before reprising his trademark cartwheel-somersault celebration to the delight of both his team-mates and the crowd.

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

Walters, who had earlier hit the post with a deft flick, got his name on the scoresheet with a firm header from Brady's 34th-minute cross to hand his side a healthy half-time advantage.

Brady's shift ended at the break as he, Westwood, Glenn Whelan and Long made way for Stephen Ward, Darren Randolph, Hendrick and James McClean and 12 minutes later the Aviva rose to acclaim a man who has written himself into Irish sporting folklore.

Keane deservedly took his time to leave the pitch as Wes Hoolahan was sent on in his place, acknowledging the cheers of the crowd and the applause of his team-mates and then the coaching staff and substitutes on the sideline as he left the turf he has graced for so long for the last time.

Having now re-joined the ranks of the Ireland supporters, he was able to celebrate a goal within six minutes of his departure when Walters accepted Harry Arter's pass and rounded Al Rushaidi before slotting inside the far post.

Ireland threatened repeatedly as time ran down with Hendrick, McClean and Hoolahan all going close, but the final scoreline was largely irrelevant.


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