Belfast Telegraph

History will be kind to Republic hero Whelan: Keane

 

By Daniel McDonnell

Roy Keane was asked for his take on Conor McGregor. This was supposed to be the headline the world was waiting for. "I didn't watch it," he replied of McGregor's bout with Floyd Mayweather. "Strangely enough, I could not get into it and I have no interest in that.

"I like boxing, but I don't like all that other MMA."

So, he was happy that the boxer won?

"Well, boxing was always going to win," he shrugged. "McGregor was changing sport."

Best of luck with creating a viral sensation from those words. Keane and McGregor are unlikely allies, but they do get mentioned in the same bracket when youthful arguments rage about the Republic of Ireland's greatest ever sportsman.

It's fairly safe to say that Glenn Whelan's name will never feature in those discussions, with the long-serving midfielder the whipping boy of this generation when judged from a TV studio.

When his name popped up in discussion yesterday, Keane suggested that history will be kinder to the 33-year-old, who is known to be miffed by some of the commentary on him over the years.

With 81 caps to his name, he is the most-capped Irish central midfielder of all time and his recent move from Stoke to Championship outfit Aston Villa came after 277 appearances at the highest level.

For a challenge like this week's jaunt to Tbilisi to face Georgia, Keane feels that low-maintenance characters like Whelan (above) are invaluable because they bring the right attitude to unglamorous fixtures.

"Glenn might get a bit more credit when his career is over and I mean that in the nicest way," said Keane. "Where he can look back and say he played a lot of the games at the highest level.

"Part of being a footballer is that you're always going to be open to some sort of criticism. But the beauty about Glenn Whelan is he's here, always here.

"Glenn doesn't fall into the media spin, he doesn't wear fancy coloured boots and people pick up on that. But you talk about the modern footballer and we turn up here a lot of times with lads who aren't here or lads who are carrying knocks. Glenn Whelan is always here.

"People look at (holding midfielders) and think they need to do more. And people analyse what Glenn doesn't do. But sometimes you have to focus on what the player does do well and that might be the dirty stuff or they are more team players than other players.

"Is there stuff that Glenn can improve on and be better in? Of course. But he's a good team player, he's always available, he shows courage looking for the ball when sometimes a lot of players don't want to get on it.

"He plays an important role because playing in the middle of the park is not easy. He will never get you a goal and probably doesn't get many assists but when you're a sitting midfielder it's hard to do that stuff because you're protecting your back four."

  • Georgia v Rep of Ireland, World Cup Group D qualifier: Dinamo Arena, Tbilisi, Saturday, 5.00pm

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