Roy Keane says that Gareth Bale will have a tough night in store for him when Wales travel to the Aviva Stadium later this month.
Ireland have their own injury worries, with Shane Duffy already ruled out and Robbie Brady suspended, but the Real Madrid galactico has recovered from injury in time for the crunch World Cup qualifier.
However, Keane insists that he ignores most of the medical bulletins he’s sent by the “doom and gloom” team doctor and, similarly, he isn’t too worried about the return to fitness of the Welsh frontman.
“If you look at the stats of the Welsh team, he’s been involved in scoring or assisting in 70% of their goals, so we have a tough job trying to stop him.
“You have to respect the players we’re up against but also remember that we’ve got some good players. If he’s up against Seamus Coleman then he’ll be in for a tough night.
“Seamus has matured a lot over the last few years and the biggest compliment I can give him is that I compare him to Denis Irwin. He’s at a good club at Everton, he’s got a goal in him and he gets plenty of assists. He’s just a decent young fellow around the training ground, and that’s half the battle.
“As much as you think he might be quiet, he’s a good voice in training without ranting and raving.”
Keane added that a link with Bayern Munich, which Carlo Ancelotti has since dismissed, is a good reflection on Coleman’s ability to play Champions League football.
Although Ireland are already down a first-choice defender in Duffy, Keane says he rarely reads medical bulletins until the squad assembles for a match.
“We know we’ve got a small pool of players and we can’t lose sleep if lads show up and they haven’t played for a month or two. We just have to get on with it.
“Fitness coaches do like to talk a lot, ‘Well he’s played two minutes in two years, blah, blah, blah’. We have to say: ‘Listen, you be quiet.’
“What we find with the Irish lads, even though they mightn’t be pulling up any trees at club level, when they’re playing for Ireland, they seem to rise to the challenge. Martin gets them to play at that higher level, even though they mightn’t have been playing for the previous few months.
“A lot can happen in the next week or two. We get a lot of messages from the medical staff about players who are carrying knocks or coming back from injury. I don’t know why they even send the emails because I very rarely read them.
“I’ll turn up for training on the Monday and then we’ll take stock of who we have. Shane Duffy is a loss to us but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. There’ll always be players missing. The doctor who works with Ireland is doom and gloom.”
He isolates Jon Waters as one player he knows will show up, as proved when the Stoke player played through injury at Euro 2016.
“Jon is a big player for us, a big personality. I was down at Stoke the previous weekend and he was sub, but he did more in the warm-up than some players did when the game was on. He’s a great attitude and a fitness freak.
“Jon hasn’t played much football but I wouldn’t lose a wink of sleep about Jon tuning up and not having played for a few months. You know for that week with Ireland, he’s different class. You want people like Jon in the trenches with you.”
The Corkman was speaking in front of a sold-out audience of 700 at a fundraiser for his former club Cobh Ramblers, who host Shelbourne at St Colman’s Park this evening.
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