Roy Keane struggling with plan to combat threat of Gareth Bale
Roy Keane has admitted working out a plan to stop "brilliant" Wales dangerman Gareth Bale will be easier said than done.
The Real Madrid star was the nation's inspiration as they qualified for the Euro 2016 finals and then threatened to take the competition by storm as they marched into the last four.
On Friday night, Bale and his team-mates will attempt to dent the Republic of Ireland's hopes of maintaining their lead in World Cup qualifying Group D when the sides meet in Dublin, and while Ireland's assistant manager Keane insists the Welsh are not a one-man team, he knows what a threat the former Southampton and Tottenham player poses.
He said: "Do you not think other players and coaches have tried to come up with a plan before? But the top players seem to figure it out and they'll affect the game.
"Bale has done that for a number of years for Madrid and on the big occasions. I can't say we have any particular plan, but having said that, we will respect all the Welsh players.
"They have got some good players around Bale who give him that foundation to go and express himself, so that's why he has a big impact on all their results, whether it be goals or assists. The stats will tell you that.
"But your eyes don't lie to you. He's a good player and we look forward to the challenge of challenging ourselves against him."
Keane first encountered the then 17-year-old Bale during his time as Sunderland manager back in November 2006, and has watched him blossom from afar ever since.
He said: "He's a top, top player. He's a brilliant player who has been doing it regularly at the highest level now for the last few years.
"I have always liked him. I even liked him when I was manager at Sunderland. He came up with Southampton and he was the best player on the park. I think he equalised in injury time and was excellent - and that was at left-back.
"You have followed his career from the outside looking in, but he's obviously a talented boy and he's fulfilled his potential and probably more.
"He's a top player, I like watching him playing. He's a big player for Wales and a big player for Real Madrid.
"It's not a day for comparing him to other players, he's a brilliant, brilliant footballer in his own right.
"Do you know what? Our lads should look forward to the challenge of playing against the best. You want to play with the best and against the best, and we'll have a chance on Friday because Bale is up there with some of the top players in the world, there is no getting away from that. Brilliant player."
If Ireland will have their hands full with Bale on Friday evening, Keane and manager Martin O'Neill find themselves fully occupied in the run-up to the game with an injury crisis which shows few signs of abating.
Striker Daryl Murphy has joined fellow casualties Shane Duffy, Ciaran Clark, Harry Arter and Wes Hoolahan on the casualty list with a calf problem, and midfielder James McCarthy could yet join them if he does not train on Wednesday as he tries to overcome a hamstring strain.
With Robbie Brady suspended, the Republic's options are dwindling by the day, but Keane insists that cannot be used as an excuse.
He said: "We've got a good group of players and we'll be ready for Friday night. There'll be no excuses. We'll have 11 lads starting, we'll have lads off the bench.
"It happens to other players, other teams, it happens to other clubs, it happens to international managers. It's obviously such a big game that yes, you're thinking, 'Maybe another time', but it is what it is. We'll be ready Friday one way or another."