Keane says he'll 'cherish all those memories' as he bids farewell to Irish duties
Published 25/08/2016 | 02:30
The Celtic Tiger was just a cub and Bertie was in charge, but the real change that came afoot was in Irish football - when a teenage Robbie Keane burst onto the scene for the Boys in Green.
A couple of Taoiseachs, an economic crash and three major international tournaments later, and Keano has finally decided to call time on his international career.
A last hurrah takes place against Oman at the Aviva Stadium next week.
Deemed too small to make it in his younger years, the boy from Tallaght only had one thing on his mind when he crossed the white line according to past coaches - goals, goals and goals.
But nobody in their wildest dreams would have believed when Keano took to the field - on a spring evening on March 25, 1998 - that a further 144 caps would follow.
Then there's the record-smashing 67 international goals. Niall Quinn had held the previous record of 21.
As one fan said online: "Fourteen years ago, Robbie Keane sent my classroom into a frenzy." It's safe to say there were four million others feeling the same way.
This reference to Keane's last-minute strike to salvage a draw against Germany was also mentioned in an emotional statement from Keane, which also paid tribute to the Green Army.
"I will cherish all of those memories, but one in particular stands out - the 2002 World Cup and scoring the late goal in Ibaraki, Japan, against Oliver Kahn," Keane said.
"The atmosphere, the adrenaline and the buzz from the fans that night is something I will always remember.
"I want to say a special thank you to the Irish fans who have always given me huge support.
"They are rightly described as the best fans in the world and a credit to our country."
President Michael D Higgins commended Keane as an inspirational figure to everyone involved in Irish football.
"Robbie Keane deserves to be recognised and celebrated as one of the greatest Irish players of all time, and his achievements with the Irish senior team over more than 18 years will take some surpassing," Mr Higgins said.
Former teammate Shay Given was quick to lavish praise on Keane.
"Congrats to Robbie Keane on an amazing career for Ireland, was an honour to play with him, he will be missed by all," Given said online.
Keane's ability was first recognised while playing for Crumlin United - and secretary at the time, Martin Loughran, used to give Keane lifts to training.
"When he came to us aged 11, he was only a small, little scrawny thing. I didn't think he was ever going to make it as a footballer, but he just had one thing on his mind - and that was scoring goals," Mr Loughran said.
Keane's last season with Crumlin saw him score 68 goals - an obvious sign of what was to come over the next two decades.