Belfast Telegraph

Keane calls for rule change after Dunne suspended for return trip

By Damian Spellman

Skipper Robbie Keane has called for an overhaul of the disciplinary system which will deprive Republic of Ireland of key defender Richard Dunne for their trip to Macedonia in June.

The 31-year-old picked up his second booking of the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign in Saturday's 2-1 win over the Macedonians at the Aviva Stadium and will therefore sit out the return in Skopje.

But Keane insists it is unreasonable to expect defenders not to incur two cautions over the course of 10 group games.

He said: “That rule — two yellow cards — has to change. The chance of defenders getting yellow cards, it's going to happen, 100% they are going to get two yellow cards in 10 games.

“It's ridiculous, they need to change that rule. It's a shame that Richard is going to be missing, he's a massive, massive player for us. Hopefully we get people like John O'Shea back fit and Shay Given, the experienced players. Hopefully they will be fit in June.

“But Richard is a big loss.”

Dunne was one of six men, three from either side, to be yellow-carded by Hungarian official Istvan Vad, although there was astonishment within the Irish camp that Macedonia defender Boban Grncharov did not see red for an horrendous 49th-minute challenge on Shane Long.

Grncharov took full retribution for an earlier run-in when he caught Long with his studs in the side of the head as the striker jumped to meet a high ball, leaving him with wounds which required three stitches.

Keane said: “It was an horrific tackle and certainly a red card, there's no question. The referee was only 10 yards away from it, and to give [keeper Keiren] Westwood a yellow card for time-wasting two minutes into the second half and then give the fella a yellow card for that tackle just doesn't make sense.”

Ultimately, Long and his team-mates had the last laugh as they drew level at the top of Group B with Russia, who could only draw in Armenia, and Slovakia following their 1-0 victory in Andorra.

The race for qualification is wide open once again, and Giovanni Trapattoni's men will head to Skopje knowing they will be right in the mix if they can complete a double over Macedonia.

Keane said: “It's a strange group. I said the other day people are going to take points from each other, and that has been the case with Armenia and Russia.

“Armenia is a tough place to go, so they will take points from a lot of people. That result in Armenia for us [a 1-0 victory in September] looks good now.

“It's important that we keep ourselves in there.”

The Republic's success came in characteristically complicated fashion as they raced to a 2-0 lead inside 21 minutes as Macedonia keeper Edin Nuredinoski allowed Aiden McGeady's shot into his bottom corner with just 85 seconds gone before spilling Darron Gibson's free-kick at Keane's feet.

But Ivan Trichkovski pulled one back in the final minute of the first half and Westwood had to make a fine save on 75 minutes to deny Trichkovski an equaliser.

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