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Martin O'Neill won't rush mourning Robbie Keane

Robbie will decide if he is ready to face Scots after tragic death of two cousins

By Damian Spellman

Published 13/06/2015

Calm before storm: Republic boss Martin O'Neill with Aiden McGeady in training
Calm before storm: Republic boss Martin O'Neill with Aiden McGeady in training
Robbie Keane's two cousins died during the week

Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill will leave record scorer Robbie Keane to decide if he is mentally ready to play in today's Euro 2016 qualifier against Scotland after his family suffered a second tragedy.

The 34-year-old, whose cousin Alan Harris died on Wednesday after being overcome by toxic fumes while working in a sewer in Portmarnock, learned yesterday morning that Alan's brother Stephen, who was left fighting for his life after the incident, had lost his own battle.

Keane trained, but did not attend the Republic's pre-match press conference at Dublin Airport, and O'Neill revealed he had been deeply affected by the news.

The manager said: "It was obviously very bad news, so he's not feeling great, I must admit. He feels for the family and he is quite down at the moment.

"I'm hoping that he'll come round, but if he feels he wants to participate in the game, it will be entirely his decision.

"I don't think you could ever question his professionalism, it's how he's feeling within himself, really, as much as anything else."

Defender John O'Shea, who stood in for Keane, expressed the players' support for the LA Galaxy frontman and his family.

O'Shea said: "It's one of those things. As the manager said, it's very sad news and I echo his sentiments. Our thoughts are with the family.

"But there's obviously a good morale around him. We will look after Robbie, and if he needs whatever support, it will be there for him.

"He's a very good professional, but sometimes football does take a back step when something like that happens."

Keane missed the 1-0 defeat by Scotland in Glasgow in November when he was left out of the team for the first time in 13 years, and was touch and go to start at the Aviva Stadium after playing just one full game since the beginning of April because of a groin injury.

However, the uncertainty over his presence is only one issue threatening to disrupt O'Neill's preparations for a potentially crucial game.

Paisley-born winger Aiden McGeady, who has been struggling with groin and back injuries in recent months, sat out training at Gannon Park yesterday morning, and O'Neill admitted he too would have the final say on whether or not he can play.

The 63-year-old said: "He sat out training. He's a bit sore from a few things that he was doing. He felt OK on Sunday but he's a little bit sore and we'll see how he is. But he sat out as a precaution as much as anything else."

Asked whether he would be prepared to take a gamble on McGeady, given it is the final game of the season, O'Neill added: "Taking the gamble would really be very much with Aiden, if that's the case.

"If he feels that he is ready to go and start a game, that's something that we would look at, obviously. If he feels he can participate in some of the match, I'll give him as much time as he needs."

Should McGeady miss out, O'Neill at least has a ready-made replacement in the shape of Wigan winger James McClean, who he believes has matured into a genuine international player.

He said: "I know James very well indeed and he is a great character. He treats training sessions just like matches themselves.

"I think he has settled down a little bit, he has matured. It was all very new to him when he came into the side.

"I think he felt at that time that maybe in Poland, maybe he thought he should be playing. I think he has re-thought that since then and he is absolutely fine."

The Republic would leapfrog the Scots, who currently sit in third place in Group D, with victory but defeat would represent a massive blow to their hopes of qualification.

However, O'Neill rejected a suggestion that the campaign has rather stalled since the defeat at Celtic Park.

He said: "We were beaten by Scotland with a goal scored in the 75th minute and we drew with Poland, and the game before that we drew with Germany in Germany.

"They are world champions and they had won that about three months earlier, and we had won the first two games, one of which was away.

"I'm not so sure it's been a real stalling."

Meanwhile, O'Shea will not allow friendship to get in the way of precious qualifying points as he prepares to lock horns with Sunderland team-mate Steven Fletcher.

The pair come up against each other every day on the training pitch at the Academy of Light but will go head-to-head today.

O'Shea said: "Obviously there won't be too much laughing and joking just before the game, but afterwards, it will be the same. You shake hands and you get on with things whatever the result was.

"But you know the player, obviously you get on very well with the player, but ultimately, you want to beat him, and that's it."

Belfast Telegraph

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