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Keogh to enjoy home comforts

Richard Keogh is looking to the comforts of home as the Republic of Ireland attempt to re-ignite their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.

Four of the Republic's next five Group D fixtures will take place at the Aviva Stadium with surprise leaders Poland, Friday night's conquerors Scotland, Georgia and world champions Germany all due to visit Dublin in a sequence which will go a long way towards determining the destiny of Martin O'Neill's side.

Keogh and his team-mates will have to wait until March before they can attempt to make the Poles pay for their disappointment in Glasgow, where Shaun Maloney's lone strike proved decisive, but the Derby defender is confident they can make home advantage count.

He said: "It's a really tight group, so there's a lot to play for. We have got three tough away games out of the way now, so for us it's about our home form now and how we play at the Aviva.

"This group [of players] will bounce back. We have got great characters in there and a great coaching staff, so we will look forward to the next game and hopefully get a win."

Victory over the Poles - who head the group by three points above Ireland, Scotland and Germany - and revenge against Gordon Strachan's men would provide the Republic with a huge boost, although that may be a big ask in arguably the most competitive of the nine groups.

Keogh said: "What great games again. We are at home now and if we can get some points on the board again...

"We have just got to concentrate on ourselves. We are in a good position and that's what we are focussing on now, what we can do, what we can achieve and the next two home games will be important going forward."

Keogh was handed a competitive debut for his country alongside skipper-for-the-night John O'Shea in the absence of the injured Marc Wilson, and grew into a physical encounter after being asked by O'Neill to do for Ireland exactly what he has been doing for his club.

The 28-year-old revealed he had only been told shortly before kick-off that he would be starting, but was not fazed by the challenge.

He said: "The manager has been absolutely great with me. Just before the game, he named the team, but I was ready no matter what anyway. We all prepare to play.

"He just said to me to go out and relax and play how I have been playing at Derby. Every time he has picked me, hopefully I have not let him down - and hopefully, there's more to come."

If Keogh was pleased with his personal contribution, if not the result, he and his defensive colleagues were left kicking themselves after losing concentration in the run-up to the goal.

Maloney and Ikechi Anya were allowed to work a short corner and when Scotland captain Scott Brown laid the ball off for Maloney, he curled a fine shot past goalkeeper David Forde's outstretched arm and inside the far post.

Full-back Stephen Ward said: "We defended really well for a lot of the game - both teams did, to be fair - and they had one bit of quality that beat us.

"But from our point of view, it was a really disappointing goal to give away from a set-piece because we pride ourselves on defending them well and we probably switched off a little bit.

"But we can't be too disheartened. We have had three tough away games and we were very close to taking something here.

"Eight [points] from four [games] would have been an unbelievable return, so we are right in the group.

"They [Scotland] have got to come to Dublin. We have got plenty of home games left and that's the main thing to look at."


From Belfast Telegraph