Robbie Keane prepares for another homecoming

Shamrock Rovers 0 LA Galaxy 1: The crowd of 6,000 gave Robbie Keane a warm ovation when he was called ashore with a couple of minutes to go in Tallaght Stadium on Saturday.

In truth, there was precious little else for the big attendance to cheer about as a dull game on a poor surface saw LA Galaxy beat Shamrock Rovers 1-0, the visitors’ winner — a deflected Mika Vayrynen shot — coming just before the half-time break.

Keane’s own goal threat might have been comprehensively snuffed out by the Hoops defence but, for the homecoming son, already with one eye on the visit of Poland to Dublin on March 29, the value of the exercise was all about getting more pre-season game-time.

“The more games you play and the more fitness you get, it’s always good,” he said afterwards, “and that’s the reason I wanted to play at least 80 minutes.

“The next will be 90 minutes and then (after the resumption of the MLS season) on March 6, I’ll have another four or five games under my belt before the game against Poland, so I’ll certainly be ready.”

Keane believes that his lengthy close-season break can only be of benefit to the veteran striker.

“Of course, it definitely helps, there is no question about that,” he said.

“The lads usually only get about three weeks off in England, so I’m kind of lucky in that respect. It gives you time to recover from injuries and get you back fully fit. We’ll see at the end of March if it’s helped me.”

As he assessed Ireland’s readiness for the resumption of the qualifying campaign, Keane was taking encouragement from the impression that James McCarthy – who came through another 90 minutes for Everton in their 2-2 draw with Leicester yesterday – has finally overcome his recurring hamstring problems.

“Everybody is aware of James’ quality,” he observed. “James is one of those box to box players and, when you look at the way he runs, he has a long stride. Players like that usually tend to pick up a few hamstring problems. “Hopefully it’s behind him as he’s a big, big player for us and it’s important now that the big players for our team are available.”

Keane acknowledges that Group D could hardly be more finely balanced but remains confident that Ireland can edge a qualifying place.

“Yeah, you look at ourselves, Poland and Scotland and there is not a lot between us,” he said.

“It’s certainly close but, but do I think we have a chance? Definitely. There is no question about it. Scotland are not better than us, Poland are not better than us. We maybe just edge it a small bit but it depends on how you play on the day. Scotland played better than us in the last game and they won the game, simple as that.

“Listen, certainly the Poland game is a big game and we have to get something out of that game. Teams like Poland and Scotland, it’s important that we don’t let them get three points off us.”

Galaxy coach Bruce Arena confirmed that his skipper would miss one fixture for the club in order to join up with the Irish squad next month but also expressed the hope that, in the longer term, new direct flights between Dublin and LA, set to commence in June, would make Keane’s long-distance commute easier than in the past.

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