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Martin O’Neill not expecting Republic frontmen to live up to Robbie Keane feats

Trio attempt to plug gap left by nation’s record goalscorer.

Martin O’Neill has admitted he cannot expect his current crop of Republic of Ireland frontmen to live up to the heroics of predecessor Robbie Keane.

The former Ireland captain called time on his international career in 2016 having scored 68 goals in 146 appearances for his country, leaving a huge hole in the Republic’s armoury.

On Friday evening, Southampton’s Shane Long, Preston’s Sean Maguire and Aston Villa’s Scott Hogan will compete for the chance to be the latest to give their side a cutting edge they have often lacked since Keane’s departure, although O’Neill is acutely aware of the boots they are attempting to fill.

He said: “To replace Robbie Keane – the number of goals he scored at international level is quite phenomenal – that’s a tough task for anyone.

“To ask any of the three centre-forwards that we have at this moment – Shane Long has obviously got much more experience at international level than the other two and he’s also at this minute participating, I suppose, at a higher level.

“But I don’t think that’s going to faze either Hogan or young Maguire. I think they feel up to it and I think they feel given an opportunity, they can turn whatever chances that we try to make in the game into goals. I think they are quietly confident about that.

“But to ask them to end up with the career and number of goals that Robbie Keane did, that’s tough going. It’s tough going for anyone, never mind those young lads.”

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