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Keane backed to step up for Ireland

Published 11/06/2015

Roy Keane, pictured, is confident striker Robbie Keane will not let his country down
Roy Keane, pictured, is confident striker Robbie Keane will not let his country down

Roy Keane is convinced record goalscorer Robbie Keane will not let the Republic of Ireland down if he is pitched into Euro 2016 battle with Scotland.

The 34-year-old striker, who has 65 goals to his name in 139 senior appearances for his country, has played just 169 minutes of football for LA Galaxy since the beginning of April because of a groin injury.

However, assistant manager Keane has no doubts that his namesake, who was left on the bench for the first time in 13 years as the Republic lost 1-0 in Glasgow in the reverse fixture in November, will do a job if he is asked to start the crucial Group D encounter by manager Martin O'Neill on Saturday evening.

The former Manchester United and Ireland skipper said: "If Robbie starts, he won't let us down. Whoever starts the game won't let us down as we have good competition.

"Murph (Daryl Murphy) is doing well, (David) McGoldrick, (Shane) Long - there are options up front and we'll see in the next 24 hours, if there is no reaction to Robbie.

"He played the weekend, a bit of travelling, trained yesterday and today - today was a bit more intense for him - and the manager has a decision to be made.

"But if Robbie plays, like he has always done a 100-odd times, he won't let us down."

The Galaxy frontman played the full 90 minutes of his club's 1-0 defeat by Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday evening and joined up with the Republic squad on Tuesday.

He took to the training pitch at Gannon Park in Malahide on Thursday morning having learned that his cousin Alan Harris had died in an industrial accident which left brother Steve fighting for his life after both were overcome by toxic fumes while working in a sewer just a few minutes from the team hotel in Portmarnock on Wednesday evening.

Assistant manager Keane said: "I don't really know the ins and outs. But he has trained today, being the professional he is as you would expect, and as far as he's concerned he's focusing on the game."

If the identity of the man who eventually fills that striking berth represents a key decision for O'Neill, it is one of several he faces, but he will not shy away from them as he attempts to propel the Republic back into the thick of the fight for qualification.

His number two said: "We're not daft, we know what's at stake, but we're ready for it. Pressure is part of the game. These are the games you look forward to.

"We had a couple of friendlies last week with the North and England and that's all well and good, decent games for us, but that was like the foreplay. The action starts on Saturday.

"There are a lot of key decisions to be made, but that's what we're here for and what the manager is paid for.

"People keep talking the game up, but it's a big game and we know that. Martin is experienced and hopefully we pick the right starting XI.

"There are lots of things to look at - who is carrying injuries, Robbie lacking match-sharpness - but it's about making the right decisions."

One man over whom O'Neill will not have to make a decision is Bournemouth midfielder Harry Arter, who has left the camp after failing to shake off hip and groin problems following his debut as a substitute against England on Sunday.

Ireland did not turn in one of the better performances in the defeat at Celtic Park, and there is a general acceptance that they will have to play at a significantly higher level if they are to emerge with victory.

However, former captain Keane has a simple recipe for success.

Asked what they needed to do differently this time around, he said: "Score. Keep a clean sheet. Score and keep a clean sheet.

"We know which games are very important in the group and this is really important. We're ready for it."

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