There are plenty of goals left in me yet - Keane
Published 13/06/2016 | 02:30
With the oldest squad involved at Euro 2016, the Republic of Ireland can only hope that France is not just a country for young men. And one of the oldest of the old stagers in Martin O'Neill's squad, Robbie Keane, feels that time has not yet caught up with him and that he can play a role - and score a goal - at these finals.
The opening bouts of the competition suggested that the burden of scoring goals was falling to, and being taken on by, the younger men. The likes of Eric Dier, Gareth Bale and Arkadiusz Milik are 26 or under, so is the man who scored Switzerland's winning goal against Albania.
But when Vasili Berezutski popped up to score against England for Russia, just days short of his 34th birthday, it gave hope to the likes of Keane, who will turn 36 before Euro 2016 is finished.
Unlike the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2012, Keane travels to a major tournament with Ireland as, initially, a passenger, unlikely to start a game and with the possibility of not playing at all. His days as a starting player with Ireland were numbered long ago.
With no free-scoring, young striker on the horizon, the day when Keane was dropped by Martin O'Neill was an important one.
And yet the veteran, who has survived fallow spells and unwanted moves in his long and proud career, still feels he can deliver something in France.
Keane certainly does not take well to being written off. "Just because I have been around for a long time, there are other players at this tournament the same age as me who maybe started their international careers later," he said.
"Certainly, there are goals left in me yet, I have been doing it since I was 17 years of age and I will continue to do it, I have consistently done it. I am confident in my ability, if given the opportunity, first and foremost I want to do my best for the team but if there is a chance there, hopefully I can take it."
A number of times in the build-up to this tournament, players who were in Poland in 2012 have groaned with every 2012-related question from the media and Keane is also fed up of being asked about it.
"We had a great spirit four years ago, we played against three of the best teams at that time, possibly, and we didn't win a game," he says with a hint of defiance.
"We went into that group as a group of players thinking we had a chance of getting out of the group, team spirit has always been high but we played against top, top teams and that's the way it goes in football sometimes.
"We are ready, of course we are, no question about it, the lads are excited and looking forward to the games coming around, it's been a great few weeks's training, it's gone as well as it could possibly have done, everyone's getting back from injury and is ready to go."
Keane also did not take well to being reminded of the Republic's last visit to the Stade de France, the night of Thierry Henry's handball.
"I had forgotten about it until you brought it up," he responded to a question from a French reporter.
"You asked me the question about 2009 and the game against France and clearly I remember it, it's something, like any game, that you have to forget about it as soon as possible, this is a completely different situation and completely different team.
"As a group of players and coaching staff, we are fully focused, I am not one to dwell on the past, I am just looking forward to the game tonight."