Belfast Telegraph

Kilbane wants some home comfort for Republic

By Daniel McDonnell

Kevin Kilbane has travelled all over the world from Brazil to San Marino on Irish team duty, but home is where the heart is for the 108-times capped veteran.

‘Home' for many of those matches, dating back to his debut against Iceland in September 1997, was the old Lansdowne Road, a ground bearing fond memories for Kilbane.

The ‘Lansdowne Roar' was never greater than in the 1-0 World Cup qualifier win over Holland in September 2001. That was the day a 10-man team — Gary Kelly was sent off — defied the best efforts of the Dutch in a dramatic match.

“My favourite memory of Lansdowne has to be the Holland game. It was a tremendous occasion and one that will live with me,” he said.

The new Aviva Stadium, although rising from the foundations of the old arena, does not yet possess the menacing aura of a fortress that the left-back associates with the past.

“I loved playing at Lansdowne, because the history was there, and playing my first ever international at Lansdowne was special,” said Kilbane.

“We've only played three games there and it's early days, but the Russia game set us back, so until we do get that big result, we'll have a bit of a question mark over us at the Aviva.”

Saturday's European Championship qualifier against Macedonia could produce that result and Kilbane is eager for just one more chance to lace up the boots and do battle. Selection is a matter of checks and balances, as Kilbane is only too aware.

On the debit side is his age and his status as an English League One player, albeit with promotion-chasing Huddersfield.

Against that, Kilbane hopes his international experience will count favourably with Giovanni Trapattoni as the manager shuffles his injury-hit playing resources.

A veteran of the Republic's disappointment in Skopje in 1999, he is hoping for a better experience this time round.

The shock 3-2 loss to Russia in October was a setback to qualifying hopes and Kilbane admits: “Confidence is high with them (the Russians), so we are chasing, but we certainly feel we're capable of catching them.

“We have to learn from it and the test is for Saturday now, the next home qualifier we've had since then. It's a big, big game.”

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