Saturday 27 December 2014

Keane relishing tough run of games

Published 23/05/2014 | 16:57

Assistant manager Roy Keane has urged Ireland to use a tough run of friendlies as preparation for their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign
Assistant manager Roy Keane has urged Ireland to use a tough run of friendlies as preparation for their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign

Roy Keane has urged the Ireland to use their tough end-of-season friendlies to hone themselves for the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.

Martin O'Neill's men face Turkey in Dublin on Sunday before taking on World Cup-bound Italy, Costa Rica and Portugal as part of their preparations for the resumption of competitive action in Georgia in September.

The Turks currently occupy 39th place in FIFA's ranking table with the Italians ninth, Costa Rica 34th and the Portuguese third, all significantly ahead of Ireland in 66th place.

However, assistant manager Keane insists that is just the kind of challenge they need to harden themselves for what lies ahead.

He said: "We want to play the good teams, it will be a good test for our lads.

"We have got a tough qualifying campaign coming up, so there's no point in playing too many easy teams.

"It's a great test for us, it's great preparation for us."

Ireland have been drawn into Group D along with Germany, Poland, Georgia, Scotland and Gibraltar, and plotting a route to the finals will be far from straightforward.

In the circumstances, this run of friendlies could prove hugely important, and while Turkey may be the lowest-ranked of the quartet, Keane knows they will provide stern resistance.

He said: "They are a good team. People say there are no easy games in international football - there are against certain teams, but this certainly won't be one of them.

"They are a very, very good team. We are disappointed after the last result and maybe the second half performance against Serbia, so we are looking to bounce back and get a good performance and hopefully a good result.

"But again, the few games we have coming up will be big tests for us."

O'Neill will look at the full range of options at his disposal over the next three weeks, although midfielder James McCarthy is missing through injury and skipper Robbie Keane will not join up until the American leg of the tour, which John O'Shea and Seamus Coleman will sit out.

Keane admits that the new management team, which has had just three games to date since taking over in November last year, is still learning about the squad.

He said: "I wouldn't have said we have had our best XI out yet, but we are working on it.

"I suppose that's the big downside of international football, it's very hard to get a settled team because lads are pulling out or lads are injured.

"That's one of the challenges we face, but we are looking forward to it."

Hull midfielder David Meyler had a scan on a calf problem on Thursday afternoon which revealed no lasting damage, but he is yet to train and is unlikely to be involved on Sunday if he does not do so on Saturday morning.

But club-mate Stephen Quinn is hoping to get the nod as he attempts to add to his three senior caps to date, and he knows exactly what is at stake.

Quinn said: "It's very intense out there. It's the end of the season, it's not like a normal end-of-season jolly-up, I suppose.

"The manager and Roy touched on it there as well. We are looking to keep this intensity, and it's only a couple (of) more weeks, we can all have our holidays after that.

"There are places up for grabs there and all the lads look sharp."

Press Association

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