News Off the Ball

Saturday 20 September 2014

Performance against Italy our most encouraging for years

Joe Molloy

Published 04/06/2014 | 02:30

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Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane
Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane

Not for the first time, it's been a week where Roy Maurice Keane has overshadowed the more humdrum goings-on in Irish football.

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It's hard to get enough of him, or certainly hard to avoid him. Just last week, a nothing pitch-side briefing produced a picture which promptly adorned the front pages.

He looked like some kind of ancient prophet – the hood up, the rain, the stare, those cheekbones.

Yes our Roy possesses a hold over us. One suspects Martin O'Neill is bemused at the extent of our obsession. What Keane overshadowed though, is worth highlighting, because Ireland's showing against Italy was the most encouraging one we've seen in years.

The performances of Anthony Pilkington, Jeff Hendrick and David Meyler all caught the eye. Wes Hoolahan buzzed between the lines, showing for every ball and knitting play together with subtle touches and dinks around corners.

Oh what a pity he's not 10 years younger.

All the while, Irish players were getting into good positions, running beyond the ball and showing an ambition to actually hurt the other team. It wasn't flawless obviously and pre-tournament friendlies come with severe health warnings.

There is also the nagging sense that Robbie Keane remains damn essential. But against respected opposition, we saw the hardening of a new philosophy. It's been a good week for Irish football, in more ways than one.

Irish Independent

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