Thursday 29 September 2016

Martin O'Neill: I wish Robbie Keane was 10 years younger

Tom Rooney

Published 01/09/2015 | 15:08

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill with Robbie Keane
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill with Robbie Keane

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill has lamented the advancing years of Ireland's record goalscorer Robbie Keane.

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Speaking at FAI HQ in Abbotstown today ahead of the upcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers against Gibraltar and Georgia, the former Celtic boss was effusive in his praise of not just the LA Galaxy captain’s finishing prowess, but his infectious attitude for the game.

His only complaint about Ireland’s record goal-scorer is his advancing age.

“Robbie Keane is obviously a terrific goal-scorer," he said.” “My own view, rather selfishly, is that I wish he was 27, rather than closer to 37.

“He’s been a great player, and if you watched any of the training there today, he enthuses for the game as if he was 18-years-old.”

Read more: Randolph hoping Hammers form will turn manager's head

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill watches on during squad training. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill watches on during squad training. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

O’Neill recognised that Keane’s recent performances in a green jersey have not reflected his recent form in MLS, but went on to say that the striker has returned to Ireland for the double-header in fine fettle.

“He feels better physically then he did when he came in June time – he says that himself.  And obviously that’s a good thing, and the goals he’s scored for Galaxy has helped confidence and frame of mind.”

When asked whether he would be of a mind to select players not regularly starting for their club sides, or who may be subject of moves elsewhere, namely Aiden McGeady and Shay Given, the manager implied the slate was clean for those in his squad.

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"I’m not particularly bothered whatever materialises; it’s not going to change his (McGeady) immediate outlook here with us. But for his club future, it might be something he will want to resolve.

“He’s not played that much, I must admit that, he hurt himself pretty early on pre-season, so he hasn’t done much work. But we know what he can do for us and that 20 to 25 minutes with him might still be worth it.”

Given is considered under pressure from Darren Randolph in light of his recent displays for West Ham, and O’Neill admitted that the Donegal native’s situation at Stoke was less than perfect.

“Ideally, again, it would be great if he (Given) were playing first team football because that is a benefit. At least he got some time on the field against Luton (Capital One Cup); 120 minutes plus the penalties, so that’s something.

“Darren Randolph is going well at West Ham and getting into the side, so that’s at least food for thought."

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