Dad Martin was also a centre-back, a star at Arsenal, but opted to represent England. Today, the Reading prospect will earn his second cap in the space of just five days when he lines out against Slovenia in Koper (kick-off 5pm Irish time).
It’s the second part of a qualification double-header, and he’ll be thinking of his father’s advice throughout, just like in Thursday’s debut against Italy, when his parents sat in the stand of the Waterford RSC proudly watching on.
Keown junior has fared well in the game as he approaches his 21st birthday. He’s played twice in the Championship and earned a three-year contract extension with the Royals last year.
Only for a foot injury, his international breakthrough may have come earlier but, now he’s in the fold, the pressure which comes from the inevitable comparisons doesn’t bother Niall.
“My Dad is a big influence on me but doesn’t get too involved in analysis,” he explained.
“As a former centre-back, I’ve learned lots from him and we talk at times about my game. We’re on the same wavelength.
“Both my Dad’s parents were born in Ireland and he still gets stick from our family in Galway for representing England.
“There was no way I could turn Ireland down. Growing up, I spent a lot of my summers in the west of Ireland it was drilled into me. I was delighted to accept the call.”
Beating Slovenia today is a must if Ireland are to reignite their ambitions of grabbing second place in Group Two.
They will likely need at least 10 points from their final four games, and even that may not be sufficient to clinch a play-off shot at reaching the finals in Poland next year.
Ireland manager Noel King has drafted in Dylan Connolly (Bray Wanderers) and uncapped Connor Dimaio (Chesterfield) to replace Glen Rea and Brandon Miele.