With a hat-trick against Gibraltar already under his belt, and 15 and counting to his credit in the MLS this season, Ireland’s 65-goal record-breaker Robbie Keane looks every inch the man to roll the Rock in Faro tonight.
Describing himself as “fit and raring to go”, Keane dismissed any idea that Ireland might be overtaken by the holiday mood in the Algarve. “We’re not here to play golf,” he pointed out, “we’re here to play football and win a football match.” The idea that, because the opposition is Gibraltar, winning this football match is almost easier done than said, gets little traction from a man who was one of the boys in green who barely survived a grim night in San Marino in 2007 when it took an injury time goal by Stephen Ireland to spare Ireland’s blushes in a 1-2 win.
What Keane now describes as “one of the worst (Irish) performances in a long time” reinforced the lesson that “you always have to be careful and respectful and treat every game like any other game — and all week the staff have reminded us of that.” Asked if, as a veteran with time against him, qualifying games matter even more to him now, Keane was at his barbed best.
“What matters is that I want to win every game I’m involved in,” he said. “I certainly won’t be retiring before October and I’m fully focused on these four games and concentrating fully on the game against Gibraltar”.
Martin O’Neill observed yesterday that “in this day and age it’s very difficult to prevent people from knowing a result even if locked in a dressing room” but Keane insisted that the outcome of tonight’s earlier Georgia-Scotland match should in no way impact on Ireland’s approach to the game in Faro. “I’d be disappointed in players if they approach the game differently just because they know the Scotland result,” he said.
Meanwhile, James McClean has revealed the lengths he is prepared to go to, to keep himself at peak fitness.
“I’ve recently turned my garage into a boxing gym,” he told FAI TV. “Even when I was at Derry, I was probably fitter then than I am now. When they were going out, I was running the roads at 11 or 12 at night. Fitness is always something that is important to me. I need it in my game as well. Five minutes to go, if you have something more left in the tank than the other players, you’re always going to have a chance of getting that loose ball or getting at the back post. Fitness is key and something I pride myself on.”
The Derryman also revealed just how close he came to signing for New York Red Bulls. “It was basically a done deal until West Brom came in,” he said. “Look I’ve played in the Championship for two years. I had at least twelve Championship offers to stay in the Championship, a lot of good clubs. But, for me, I’ve done the Championship, it’s not where I want to be, it’s not a nice league. I’ve experienced that. The MLS was a tempting offer, I went over and saw the facilities and seen what they had to offer and where they would fit me in.
“I was almost ready to jump at the chance. Everything had been agreed and then West Brom came in. And as soon as West Brom came in it was a no-brainer. The way I decided was if I was looking back at the end of my career, would I regret not going to the MLS? Not as much as the Premier League again.”
Perez (St Joseph’s); Garcia (Lincoln Red Imps), R Chipolina (Lincoln Red Imps), R Casciaro (Lincoln Red Imps), J Chipolina (Lincoln Red Imps); Gosling (Bristol Rovers), Bardon (Lincoln Red Imps); Guilling (Lincoln Red Imps), Walker (Lincoln Red Imps), K Casciaro (Lincoln Red Imps)l L Casciaro (Lincoln Red Imps).
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