Monday 5 December 2016

Kevin Kilbane: 'Half-time hook will leave Robbie Keane fearing end is nigh'

Published 09/09/2015 | 02:30

Kevin Kilbane (pictured) believes that Robbie Keane still has a role to play in the Irish national team
Kevin Kilbane (pictured) believes that Robbie Keane still has a role to play in the Irish national team

Kevin Kilbane believes that his old team-mate Robbie Keane will be hurting after his half-time withdrawal against Georgia because he will fear it means the end is coming.

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Martin O'Neill decided to change things up and spring Shane Long to bring a little more pace to the Irish front line, with the skipper losing out.

Kilbane still thinks that Ireland's record goalscorer has a role to play, even if it's as a substitute, yet he knows that Monday's switch will have hit the Tallaght man hard.

"Robbie wouldn't have liked that," said Kilbane, "That would have hurt him badly. Getting substituted during the first half, 20 or 30 minutes into a game, that's probably the worst, but I think half-time is as bad for a player.

"Maybe it was the night to bring Robbie on as a sub, if you're searching for a goal. Martin decided to go with the same team as Gibraltar and probably realised it wasn't the right decision."

Keane said on the eve of the game that he would have no problem with a role in O'Neill's set-up where he was rotated between starting and coming on a sub. However, Kilbane is unsure of the long-term potential.

"He's started so much that it's difficult to accept (being a sub). We've seen it at club level, with someone like Steven Gerrard when he was getting to the end," he says.

"When you're being left out or coming off at half-time. . . it's not so much pride, but you don't want to accept that the end is coming.

"I think it would hurt Robbie if he was coming in constantly and not starting and then if he was on the bench and not coming on. Managers will say he's contributing off the pitch but ultimately he wants to be playing."

Kilbane feels that Keane's reputation still carries weight in terms of gaining respect from opponents, and says the evidence of his June cameo with Scotland should act as a deterrent to writing off the LA Galaxy star.

"I remember when I got injured under Giovanni Trapattoni and missed a game with Russia, I was leaving the squad thinking it was going to be the last time," he recalls.

"I doubt Robbie is at that stage. When he came on against Scotland, when we were struggling, he looked the real quality player on the pitch and Robbie still has that class, that edge that we need.

Mindset

"I remember playing Croatia and seeing a name like Robert Prosinecki and thinking 'Oh, he's still in the side' and that stands for a lot in the mindset of (opposition) players. That would be the case with Robbie.

"On Monday, Robbie couldn't get into the game but that's because there were constantly defenders with him trying to stop him and that can leave space."

The player turned pundit thinks the fact that Germany only need a draw in Dublin next month could suit Ireland and he would prefer to avoid a scenario where a positive result in Warsaw on the final day is required.

Kilbane was speaking at the launch of this year's Westport Sea2Summit Adventure Race which takes place on November 7 and will raise funds for The Down Syndrome Centre and the John Giles Foundation. Entries remain open. See www.westportsea2summit.ie

Irish Independent

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