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Keogh has no Ireland regrets

Richard Keogh is ready to answer his country's call on Friday night with no regrets over his decision to declare for the Republic of Ireland.

The Republic will meet Scotland in Glasgow at the end of a week which has seen a debate over players opting to represent countries other than that of their birth grow increasingly tetchy, with Aiden McGeady and James McCarthy both preparing to return to their native country in the green of Ireland.

But 28-year-old Derby defender Keogh, who was born in the Essex town of Harlow, had no decision to make when his time came.

He said: "For me, it was a no-brainer. My dad was born in Carlow and moved over to England when he was a bit older, but my nan and grandad lived there all their lives.

"I played for the Under-19s and to me, the natural progression was to play for the Under-21s and hopefully the seniors. That was my aim, so for me it was a very proud moment when I got the call to play for Ireland - and it was the best decision I ever made."

Keogh could well line up against the Scots at Celtic Park with Stoke's Marc Wilson having been ruled out through injury, and the atmosphere is certain to be intense with McGeady and McCarthy seemingly certain to be given a hostile reception.

However, full-back Stephen Ward is convinced neither man will be affected if that proves to be the case.

Ward said: "I don't think they have really taken much notice of it. There are a lot of things said coming up to the games in the press, heat-of-the-moment stuff.

"They are just training - obviously James is looking to get himself right and Aiden has just trained away. We tend to just concentrate on ourselves and get ready for the game in our own way.

"I'm sure they have been booed before. Aiden has played in Old Firm games, James has played in derby games, so it will be nothing new to any player.

"But it will be a special occasion, a special atmosphere and I am sure they will savour it as much as anyone else.

"It's one to look forward to. The two sets of fans are up there with some of the best in the world, so I am sure it will be a really special night."

It will be particularly special for Keogh if he is asked to partner John O'Shea at the heart of Martin O'Neill's defence, and far from fearing the mission, he insists he would relish the chance to test himself against strikers he knows well.

Keogh said: "It would be something I would really enjoy and really relish. I would relish the challenge of playing - that's why you are in football, to play big games, and they don't come much bigger than this. If I am called upon, then I will be ready, and not just me, but the whole group.

"They [Scotland] have obviously got good players. [Steven] Fletcher is in good form and scoring goals, but obviously knowing Chris Martin and Jonny Russell from Derby, I know what threat they possess.

"But it's built up to be an exciting game and it should be a great atmosphere."

That atmosphere is something Ward has experienced once before, and he is looking forward to revisiting a stadium which holds a special place in the hearts of many of his compatriots.

He said: "I have played there once, in a pre-season friendly. I think there were about 30,000 people there. It's a very special place and I think any Irish person going there will tell you how special it is to them, so it's a game we are all really looking forward to."

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