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Friday 9 December 2016

Grieving Keane may not feature

Published 12/06/2015 | 14:26

Republic of Ireland skipper Robbie Keane will decide if he is able to face Scotland
Republic of Ireland skipper Robbie Keane will decide if he is able to face Scotland

Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill will leave record scorer Robbie Keane to decide if he is mentally ready to play in Saturday's Euro 2016 qualifier against Scotland after his family suffered a second tragedy.

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The 34-year-old, whose cousin Alan Harris died on Wednesday after being overcome by toxic fumes while working in a sewer in Portmarnock, learned on Friday morning that Alan's brother Stephen, who was left fighting for his life after the incident, had lost his own battle.

Keane trained, but did not attend the Republic's pre-match press conference at Dublin Airport, and O'Neill revealed he had been deeply affected by the news.

The manager said: "It was obviously very bad news this morning, so he's not feeling great, I must admit. Obviously he feels for the family and he is quite down at the moment.

"I'm hoping that he'll come round, but if he feels he wants to participate in the game tomorrow, it will be entirely his decision.

"I don't think you could ever question his professionalism, it's how he's feeling within himself, really, as much as anything else.

"But as I say, it was obviously bad news this morning. He's not great."

Defender John O'Shea, who stood in for Keane, expressed the players' support for the LA Galaxy frontman and his family.

O'Shea said: "Ah look, it's one of those things. As the manager said, it's very sad news and I echo the sentiments of the manager. Our thoughts are with the family.

"But look, there's obviously a good morale around him. We will look after Robbie, and if he needs whatever support, it will be there for him.

"He's a very good professional, but obviously sometimes football does take a back step when something like that happens."

Keane missed the 1-0 defeat by Scotland in Glasgow in November when he was left out of the team for the first time in 13 years, and was touch and go to start at the Aviva Stadium after playing just one full game since the beginning of April because of a groin injury.

However, the uncertainty over his presence is only one issue threatening to disrupt O'Neill's preparations for a potentially crucial game.

Paisley-born winger Aiden McGeady, who has been struggling with groin and back injuries in recent months, sat out training at Gannon Park on Friday morning, and O'Neill admitted he too would have the final say on whether or not he can play.

The 63-year-old said: "He sat out training today. He's a bit sore from a few things that he was doing. He felt not so bad on Sunday but he's a little bit sore and we'll see, we'll see how he is. But he sat out today as a precaution as much as anything else."

Asked whether he would be prepared to take a gamble on McGeady, given it is the final game of the season, O'Neill added: "Taking the gamble would really be very much with Aiden, if that's the case.

"If he feels that he is ready to go and start a game, that's something that we would look at, obviously. If he feels he can participate in some of the match, again because he has been a very important player for us in this qualifying campaign, I'll give him as much time as he needs."

Should McGeady miss out, O'Neill at least has a ready-made replacement in the shape of Wigan winger James McClean, who he believes has matured into a genuine international player since he first surged to prominence under previous manager Giovanni Trapattoni during the run-up to the Euro 2012 finals.

He said: "I know James very well indeed and he is a great character. He treats training sessions just like football matches themselves.

"I think he has settled down a little bit, he has matured. It was all very new to him when he came into the side.

"I think he felt at that time that maybe in Poland, maybe he thought he should be playing. I think he has re-thought that since then and he is absolutely fine."

Ireland would leapfrog the Scots, who currently sit in third place in Group D, with victory but defeat would represent a massive blow to their hopes of qualification.

However, O'Neill rejected a suggestion that the campaign has rather stalled since the defeat at Celtic Park.

He said: "We were beaten by Scotland with a goal scored in the 75th minute and we drew with Poland, and the game before that we drew with Germany in Germany.

"They are world champions and they had won that about three months earlier, and we had won the first two games, one of which was away from home.

"Do you know, I'm not so sure it's been a real stalling."

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