Saturday 10 December 2016

Robbie Keane role in doubt after Lansdowne 'snub'

John Fallon

Published 30/05/2016 | 02:30

'The 35-year-old Dubliner has signalled his intention to retire from international football after next month’s European Championship finals.' Photo: Sportsfile
'The 35-year-old Dubliner has signalled his intention to retire from international football after next month’s European Championship finals.' Photo: Sportsfile

Ireland captain Robbie Keane is expected to provide an insight today into the snub he suffered on Friday by being denied a hometown international farewell.

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The 35-year-old Dubliner has signalled his intention to retire from international football after next month's European Championship finals and would have liked to feature against Dutch at Lansdowne Road, where his illustrious career in the green jersey began all of 18 years ago.

Instead, manager Martin O'Neill kept the veteran on the bench throughout the friendly despite making only five of the six substitutions he was permitted.

Ireland's record goalscorer and caps holder, who had several family and friends in attendance at the farewell game before the Euro finals, cut a desolate figure as he trudged towards the back of the pack of players partaking in a lap of the pitch following the 1-1 draw.

Keane and Shay Given, another unused substitute due to quit after the Euros, didn't don the specially-designed tee-shirts for the occasion worn by the majority of the group.

O'Neill has confirmed that Keane will be the team for tomorrow's friendly against Belarus in Cork but the stalwart must be concerned about whether he'll see any action in France.

It will be Keane's first start in eight months for Ireland since being hauled off at half-time against Georgia.

He was dropped for the next game against Germany in October, brought on for the injured Shane Long a few days later in Poland, but didn't get a minute on the pitch during the play-off double-header against Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The LA Galaxy striker reported into Dublin for the friendlies in March against Switzerland and Slovakia only to be declared unfit with a knee problem.

Meanwhile, the FAI last night refused to comment on whether Keiren Westwood had joined up with the squad. The goalkeeper's strong claims for inclusion as Ireland's third goalkeeper for the Euros were boosted further by a brilliant performance in Sheffield Wednesday's Championship play-off defeat to Hull City on Saturday.

O'Neill has to choose between Westwood and David Forde, an unused substitute for Millwall in yesterday's League One play-off final, for the vacancy alongside Given and first-choice Darren Randolph.

Meanwhile, Harry Arter has no intention of altering the aggressive approach that got him in trouble with the referee at the on Friday if he gets another chance tomorrow to further his claims for incluysion in the squad.

Arter has primarily turned heads because of what he can do with the ball but he has also toughened up in recent years to survive in the engine room and was booked in the first half against Holland after the Portuguese official lost patience with a series of tackles that were late enough to let opponents know he was there.

"That's the sort of player I am," laughed Arter afterwards. "I never really change the way I play. I may have to calm it down a little bit but that's the kind of player I am."

Arter was determined to make the most of every minute on the field because he is making up for lost time. The Dutch encounter was only his second Irish appearance, and a first start, and he accepts that it was comparable with the feeling of being on trial at a club.

"For me it was," he said. "Obviously for some players it isn't and rightly so, they're at this level and they deserve to be going to France.

"But for myself, with only 20 minutes before this, I'd be foolish to think this was anything other than an audition. I don't see that as pressure. I see it as a challenge and I will give it my all."

Irish Independent

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