Veteran striker Keane determined to savour finals experience

Robbie Keane says his status as one of the veterans of the Irish team means he’s relishing playing in the European Championship finals all the more.

“When you are 21 years of age, you think you have got 20 years left in you,” said Ireland’s skipper. “But now you are coming towards the end and you are not too sure how many tournaments you have left in you.”

Keane admitted that, following Ireland’s controversial failure to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, watching the tournament was: “A pain in the arse, to be honest with you, especially having gone so close. This is why you play football, to play in these big competitions.”

Keane, 31, fresh from a visit to the White House, also reflected good-humouredly on the passing of time for players like himself, Shay Given, Richard Dunne and Damien Duff.

“We have been playing since we were 17, 18 years of age,” he said. “Ten years ago, we were the young lads coming through and Niall Quinn and Steve Staunton were sitting down at the back of the bus. Now it’s me, Shay, Richie and Duffer sitting at the back of the bus, so I am sure all the young lads are saying, ‘Look at all those old fellas back there’.”

Meanwhile, Ireland U21 boss Noel King insists the four uncapped players, including Cork native John Egan, are well capable of making the step-up for the upcoming games against Denmark and Italy after naming his squad yesterday.

Egan, son of the former Kerry GAA legend of the same name who passed away last month, skippered the Ireland U19 squad to the European Championship semi-finals last July. That was a precursor to the defender, 19, making the Sunderland first team bench for the trip to Manchester United in November and securing subsequent loan stints at Crystal Palace and Sheffield United.

King will likely blood him in the friendly against Denmark at Tallaght Stadium on May 28 should captain Rob Kiernan fail to recover from injury.

Ireland than play UEFA qualifying group leaders Italy in Sligo on June 4.


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