Daniel McDonnell: Coleman the concern as Keane looks forward to serious work
Published 03/09/2016 | 02:30
The fact that Roy Keane is prepared to put Seamus Coleman in the same bracket as Denis Irwin is evidence of how highly he rates him.
It also emphasises why his well-being is the primary concern for Martin O'Neill and his staff ahead of a trip to Serbia where all of Coleman's main attributes will be required.
Keane invited the comparison with his old Manchester United colleague when asked about how the Donegal man slotted into the role of captain during the European Championships. The assistant boss felt that his actions showed the way for others.
"I'd always judge Seamus as a really good lad around the hotel," he said. "But we want our players to play well and Seamus has matured that way in the way he plays.
"I think he leads. Would I compare him to Denis Irwin? I don't mean in the football sense but the way Denis played. Denis led by being a brilliant player and Seamus Coleman is the same type of player.
"He doesn't look like he gets too high one way and too low the other, he's just a real Steady Eddie - and I mean that in the nicest possible way, just like Denis was. And that I'm talking in the same breath as Denis tells you what I think of Seamus. I don't do that with many players, not in terms of comparing them to Denis."
He did add that Cyrus Christie can function as an able deputy, but it is abundantly obvious that Ireland would be in a better place with a fully-fit version of their first-choice option.
Coleman has engaged in light training this week due to his ankle problem and will be monitored when the team lands in Serbia later today. It would be his first game of the season if he was given the green light by medics, but there is a sense that management would be prepared to take a chance if they saw the right signs.
Keane was in spiky form during the broadcast section of his first press outing since the Euros, taking umbrage at the suggestion that John O'Shea should go into the side for Monday once he gets the all-clear.
He also defended the absent James McCarthy by casting doubt on any suggestion his future at Everton is in jeopardy and dismissed the idea that the management team's rolling contracts are an issue. The stare was activated.
He was in slightly better form when it came to the newspaper circle, with the 45-year-old giving the impression that he just wanted to get stuck into the serious part of this gathering. After almost three years in the gig, the flow of a typical international week is familiar. He knows there's a certain amount of nonsense that goes with the territory.
"Usually when we turn up, I write off the first two or three days because we're getting more emails and messages from clubs about players who are fit and not," he said. "It's like a game for the first few days. It's politics involved with the clubs. I just turn up and whoever is training is training and whoever's not isn't.
"I just write off those days. It means the business really starts today (Friday) with the game coming up on Monday."
Keane was content with Irish moves in the transfer window and alluded to Robbie Brady's disappointment at missing out on one.
He accepts that it's harder for Irish kids trying to break through at top-flight level, although he retains the belief that somebody who is good enough should get there eventually.
Jeff Hendrick's Premier League breakthrough was the most promising development and he thinks operating in that level every week will naturally bring about improvement in the 24-year-old.
"Of course it will, unless you're a complete idiot," he said. "If you're playing week in, week out, you will improve; you have to improve or you will get found out. You're playing with better players and you're playing against better players.
"Whatever about coaches and managers, I think you do tend to improve a lot quicker and a lot better with the players that you play with. They make you better, they force you to be better. That's what good players do."
Hendrick and Brady starred in the Euros, but the number two was reluctant to go along with describing their contribution as a 'coming of age.'
"That might be a bit strong," says Keane. "Because they still have work to do. But their progress has been very, very good."
It will be tested in Belgrade. One of the older group members, Daryl Murphy, is anxious to be a part of it.
He was an unused sub on Wednesday against Oman and admitted that he was counting the substitutions, knowing that his chances of getting involved were fading away. The 33-year-old is still waiting for a first Irish goal and knows that the stroll in the park might have represented a fine opportunity.
Jon Walters' availability has threatened his place in the side, but the Newcastle purchase did take confidence from his involvement in the Euros encounters with Italy and France.
He is desperate to make the most of the next two years with both club and country. Murphy has reached the stage where he has to capitalise on whatever doors open - taking the opportunity to work with Rafa Benitez at Newcastle is filed under that heading.
"As soon as I knew the interest was concrete, I had to go," he said, matter-of-factly.
Murphy's wife and kids have moved to Waterford and he intends to move back there when his stint in England ends.
One of his sporting highlights of the summer was watching Thomas Barr's exploits in the Olympics.
With the Euros adventure consigned to history, Ireland have to focus on their next hurdle.