Roy Keane insists that, with sufficient bravery on the ball, a patched-up Irish side can upset Germany at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow night.
“People talk about bravery in the game but bravery doesn’t necessarily mean in the tackle,” the assistant manager said yesterday. “It’s about being brave in terms of possession, going forward, not being afraid to make a mistake, taking risks, forward passing.”
Already without Glenn Whelan, Ciaran Clark, Marc Wilson, James McClean and Stephen Quinn, and with Seamus Coleman in a race against time to be fit even for Sunday’s game away to Poland, Ireland suffered more worrying injury news yesterday as Wes Hoolahan was obliged to sit out training with a bruised heal.
But with rising stars like Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick available for duty, Keane was determined to look on the bright side after training at Abbotstown yesterday.
“Maybe there’s other parts of the game they mightn’t be brilliant at in terms of getting the ball back or tackling,” he said, “but you have to bring something to the party and I suppose that is their mindset, being brave and getting forward. And whatever’s been said, we will get opportunities to do that on Thursday. And that’s where the bravery comes in: Don’t be afraid to make a mistake, particularly if you’re 20 to 30 yards out from goal.
“Listen, I might be jumping out of my seat if the lads are trying something on the edge of our box but, further up the pitch, yeah, that’s what you’re in the team for. Take chances, be brave. That’s what all the top players in the world are, nice and brave and clever. But there’s a time to do it and a time not to do it.”
A big question, of course, is whether an in-form, full-strength Germany will give the home side much of a chance to actually get on the ball, let alone attempt to be constructive.
“Yeah, they have quality players and no doubt, from the betting man, they’ll have a lot of possession,” Keane acknowledged. “But we’ve got to get the balance right. We’ve got to be well set-up and have the right mindset, whatever players might be missing. The players have got to be brave and have a go and if you get opportunities…you look at their last game, Scotland scored a couple against them. So if you think you can score a couple of goals and get a result – why not, why not?”
Raising the bar still higher, Keane diverged from Martin O’Neill’s assertion that he would take a play-off place right now by suggesting that Ireland should still be going after automatic qualification.
“We might get six, let’s go for six points,” he mused. “It’s possible, isn’t it? Of course it’s possible. Why not go for it?” Keane’s bottom-line advice to the players is that they should relish, not fear, the opportunity to take on the world champions.
“They should do, yeah, that’s what the game’s about,” he said. “Obviously there has to be a bit of tension, a bit of nervousness and that’s good from a player’s point of view – it keeps you on edge, it’s good for your concentrations levels. But, yeah, as a player you want to play against the best. You test yourself against the best. And we are up against a very, very good team.
“But we went over there (and got a draw) though there’s no doubt they’re in a lot better form than when we last played them. But I think we’re a better team than when we last played then. So again, look forward to it, enjoy it and see what happens.”
Apart from Hoolahan and Coleman, Robbie Keane also missed training yesterday, his arrival in camp delayed for the very good reason that his wife Claudine had just given birth to a baby boy.
Unwisely, perhaps, a journalist asked Roy Keane yesterday if his namesake would be available for selection after becoming a father for the second time.
For his pains, the questioner was rewarded with the Corkman at his most mordantly deadpan. “Yeah, but he didn’t have the baby. Unless he’s breastfeeding he should be alright.”
Meanwhile, the assistant manager’s take on the end of the Jack Grealish saga was brief and to the point: “We were always hopeful. We’ve been patient, Jack’s already played for Ireland and we were hoping it’d continue. He’s made his decision and we move on. I didn’t cry myself to sleep when he made the decision. That’s life. He had a massive decision to make, and we move on.”
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