Keane wants Irish passion

Republic of Ireland captain Robbie Keane has warned players to commit fully to the nation’s cause or not play at all.

Republic of Ireland captain Robbie Keane has warned players to commit fully to the nation’s cause or not play at all.

Keane has been bemused by the high number of players withdrawing from international duty for the Carling Nations Cup this past week.

Ireland have had plenty of problems with mystery initially surrounding the failure of James McCarthy, Jon Walters and Marc Wilson to report for duty.

Keane has not necessarily criticised that trio, who have now been confirmed as injured, but all three were recruited under eligibility rules and the 30-year-old does not feel everyone shares his passion for international football.

The Tottenham striker said: “I think that is obviously clear to see.

“It frustrates everybody but what can you do about it? I don’t know the answer.

“I would never do it but if people don’t want to play for Ireland, don’t declare yourself to play for Ireland. It’s simple.

“I have never once pulled out of a squad for any reason apart being injured.

“I am a proud Irishman. As a kid growing up it was always a dream to play for my country.

“I still have that same hunger and enthusiasm that I had when I first had the opportunity. That will never change for me.”

The eligibility rule has served Ireland well over the years but it remains a contentious issue.

Scotland-born McCarthy’s commitment has particularly been questioned after he withdrew from a squad in February amid rumours he was set to defect to the land of his birth.

That can now not happen as he subsequently appeared in a Euro 2012 qualifier against Macedonia in March.

But his non-appearance in Dublin this week, for which manager Giovanni Trapattoni initially said there was no explanation, has brought his future back into question.

Trapattoni is equally surprised by some players’ apparent lack of appetite for international football and feels they will live to regret it.

The veteran Italian boss said: “When they retire they will understand.

“I never always understood what was important when I was younger.

“In time they will think and they will understand.”

Ireland now want to draw a line under the issue as they step up preparations for next week’s return qualifier in Macedonia.

They face Scotland tomorrow in the final match of the Nations Cup in Dublin and Keane is expecting stiffer competition than in Tuesday’s 5-0 trouncing of Northern Ireland.

Keane said: “They have players coming through and players established in the Premier League.

“It is going to be tough for us. No disrespect to Northern Ireland, I am sure it will be a bigger test.

“I watched their game (against Wales) and I was very impressed with them.”

Keane, already Ireland’s record goalscorer, struck twice on Tuesday to take his tally for the country to 48 and now has his sights set on a half-century.

“If you’d asked me a few years ago when I started off, I wouldn’t even have dreamed of scoring 50 goals,” he said.

“My aim was to beat Niall Quinn’s record (of 21).

“I did that and I’m lucky enough the goals have kept coming.

“If I don’t do it tomorrow, hopefully it will against Macedonia.

“If it does happen it will be a very proud moment, obviously I’d be delighted.”

Trapattoni has made four changes to his side with Damien Delaney, Kevin Foley, Seamus Coleman and Keith Treacy dropping out.

Defender Darren O’Dea has won his battle for fitness after an ankle injury while Birmingham’s Keith Fahey, who joined up with the squad after the Northern Ireland game, slots into midfield.

Wolves winger Stephen Hunt comes off the bench to play on the left while Portsmouth’s Liam Lawrence replaces Coleman on the right.

Keane again partners Simon Cox up front after the West Brom forward’s goalscoring debut. Wolves utility man Stephen Ward is also retained after finding the net in his first appearance.

Defender Sean St Ledger is not available having returned to Preston to treatment on his knee but Trapattoni says he could still rejoin the squad next week.

Tomorrow’s game at the Aviva Stadium – which should attract the largest crowd of the week with 25,000 expected – is effectively a final with both teams having won their opening two matches.

Trapattoni said: “We need to control the players because Macedonia is more important.

“But this trophy is also important for our morale and the confidence of the new players.

“It will not be an easy game because it is a game like a derby.”

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