Belfast Telegraph

Robbie Keane could play key role for Republic of Ireland at Euro 2016 finals

By Damian Spellman

Martin O'Neill has admitted he could take Republic of Ireland skipper Robbie Keane to the Euro 2016 finals even if he does not make it into the squad.

The 35-year-old LA Galaxy striker has returned to his club after failing to shake off a knee injury and will play no part in tonight's friendly against Slovakia having missed Friday's 1-0 victory over Switzerland.

Keane, the Republic's record goalscorer with 67 in 143 appearances for his country, will do everything within his power to make the 23 for what seems certain to be his final major tournament as a player, but manager O'Neill may consider including him in the party anyway.

The 64-year-old said: "I haven't thought about that, I must admit, but I think Robbie would be thinking he would want to try to make the 23 first and foremost, and then we will see how things develop after that.

"But he has been very influential in the group, he's been very supportive the whole time he has been here and even when he hasn't started in matches, he's still with the team, so, yes, that is a thought, I must admit."

Keane, who is currently studying for his coaching badges, has revealed previously that he would love one day to be a part of the Ireland coaching set-up.

However, he has been equally adamant that he will not hang up his boots until he is convinced he has nothing left to offer and although his legs may not now move quite as quickly as they did at the start of his 18-year senior international career, he still knows where the net is.

While injury is currently hampering Keane, it could also have opened the door for Shay Given, who will hope England counterpart Jack Butland's misfortune might open the door for him to get back into the Stoke side after recovering from his own knee problem and in turn, stake a claim for a place in the squad.

Given, who celebrates his 40th birthday next month, is back in training, although O'Neill plans to speak to him to get an update on his fitness.

He said: "Jon Walters was just filling us in and saying he felt he was just getting back to really full training now, so if this is a spur to him now to feel as if he has got a chance, well done. But I will get an opportunity now to speak to him in next 24 hours."

The Slovakia game will give the Republic a chance to test themselves against a second fellow qualifier inside five days before they bring their preparations to a close against Holland on May 27 and with a newly-announced date with Belarus at Turner's Cross on May 31.

The clash will come during a training camp at the Fota Island Resort in Cork which will run from May 30 to June 3.

Belfast Telegraph