Belfast Telegraph

Republic of Ireland hunger a highlight for Roy Keane

Euro 2016 qualifiers

By Daniel McDonnell

In the aftermath of another training session in Abbotstown, and a team effort which had clearly pleased him, Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane wore a business-like demeanour.

There are times when the Keane show is a circus and days where he seems happy to entertain it. In the Corkman's last press conference at FAI HQ, his soundbite about Arsenal players and their selfies and six packs ended up causing a bit of a splash.

That was the product of a long series of round-table interviews that invariably throw up no shortage of quotable Keane insights when he warms to the theme and spots a window for an amusingly withering one-liner.

It tends to be different when he is firmly in assistant manager mode. Certainly, that was the case yesterday as he strolled over towards the microphones with a pair of boots in his hand and a press officer over his shoulder keeping an eye on the clock. He wouldn't be hanging around.

Speaking after a lively workout, the 44-year-old outlined his straightforward take on what he is looking for on the training ground in the build-up to tomorrow's encounter with minnows Gibraltar in Faro (7.45pm). What he craves is an old-school work ethic.

"We've had a good practice game," he explained. "People talk about drills and possession but football is about 11 v 11 on a big pitch.

"And we've had a good day, a good tempo to it and lads have said, 'Listen, I want to play on Friday night'. Which is what the game of football is about."

What brought him down that line of thought was a common discussion theme of the week, the proliferation of players at manager Martin O'Neill's disposal that have arrived here without having figured for their employers.

Keane is asked if this double-header is an opportunity for those individuals, with Aiden McGeady an obvious example, to send a message to their club managers.

He's not sold on that idea when, in his eyes, they should be doing that with the aforementioned application in their daily work.

"The club managers are working with them every day of the week," Keane shrugged. "I always think you're sending a message to your club manager every day.

"The way you train, the way you behave, how you speak to the staff, how you treat the younger players at the club. I don't necessarily think the players here are going to make a big shout-out to their club managers. They probably know them better than us.

"The beauty of international football is you have a group of players with different dynamics. Some players are playing regularly, some aren't, you're just hoping you get the balance right.

"If I wasn't playing regularly I'd turn up thinking this is an opportunity. I'm pretty sure there's places up for grabs. And when we're training this week that's what we're saying to the players."

Applying that logic to this week, it appears that Bournemouth's Eunan O'Kane, who switched allegiance from Northern Ireland, is making an impression on his debut call-up.

Keane has noted his confidence with the ball.

"I like him," he said. "If you can deal with the ball you've got a chance. And he's impressed everybody.

"If he's playing regularly at club level, and Bournemouth play good football and are excellent to watch, what we've seen here over the last couple of days... the first impressions are that he's got a chance."

Wales boss Chris Coleman has warned Cyprus to forget about attempting to bully Gareth Bale.

Cyprus employed strong-arm tactics to try and curb Bale when Wales beat them 2-1 11 months ago and Coleman expects them to make it just as hard for the Group B leaders in Nicosia tonight.

"Gareth's a strong boy," he said. "If you kick him, as long as the referee deals with it, we'll play against 10 men, but in the last few years we've never been bullied."

Belfast Telegraph