Keane swoops to earn Ireland rare silverware
IRELAND 1 SCOTLAND 0
NOT a bad night's work for Robbie Keane. The Ireland captain drew drew level with Bobby Charlton on the goal-scoring charts and became just the second Ireland captain to lift a senior international trophy as Ireland edged out Scotland at the Aviva Stadium.
The Tallaght native is now the joint-top scorer from Britain and Ireland on 49 goals thanks to his first-half strike, which proved decisive.
And the FAI can brush the cobwebs off the trophy cabinet in Abbotstown and take the Icelandic Triangular Tournament silverware out of solitary confinement after 25 years.
Celebrations will be kept on the low-key side, one suspects, as the real business begins today. A result in Skopje next Saturday will be of much greater significance and this outing against a game, but blunt, Scottish team was a decent warm-up.
The tournament may be a short-lived endeavour, but this clash could prove to be very helpful.
The visitors asked plenty of questions of Ireland and some of the defending in a tense finish left plenty be desired as the Scots failed to make their pressure count.
After the game, Keane chose to focus on the team, but his goal celebration and the lap of honour that followed the win showed how delighted he was with his achievement.
"The most important thing, like in any international game, is to get a win and get the confidence up," said Keane.
"All you want to do is come into a camp and get that confidence, two wins in a week will do that."
Keane had been vocal on the issue of those who had failed to turn up for this week's Nations Cup action, and winger Stephen Hunt echoed his skipper's sentiments after a strong display.
"It's probably brought us closer together in terms of the ones that have turned up. Tonight, the captain was the quick to praise ones that are here. Credit to him for saying that and credit to us for being here," he said.
"If you're going to declare for Ireland, then make sure you're 100pc committed, otherwise the players won't have it and neither will the manager.
"Anyone that's 100pc Irish god bless would die to be here, if anyone that's not committed to the cause, stay at home because there's no point in being here."
Simon Cox again impressed, making a lively start to the game, winning two early free-kicks and a corner, from which Hunt's quick thinking found the striker whose low cross was cut out by Charlie Adam.
The Blackpool playmaker then had a go after Darren O'Dea was caught out by a combination of Scott Brown and Kenny Miller, before Shay Given did superbly to keep out Phil Bardsley's scorching 35-metre drive.
Ireland had chances, Cox and Keith Andrews working the ball to Keane and the striker laid the ball off to Hunt, whose tame shot failed to trouble Allan McGregor.
But the competitive clash was lacking inspiration until the unlikely intervention of Paul McShane.
The right-back, not known for his flashy play, did his best impression of Lionel Messi by robbing Steven Naismith, tricking his way past James Forrest and bursting into the opposition half.
He fed Keane and with the Scottish defenders backtracking, the striker drove a low, left-footed shot that got under McGregor and hit the net for the historic strike.
The Scots could have been level within minutes, however, as Barry Robson's dipping ball just evaded Miller, before Stephen Ward was twice caught out under cross-field balls, but the visitors couldn't take advantage.
Hunt's lively display was causing Craig Levein's men plenty of headaches and the Waterford man caught the Scots' defence napping with a quick free to Cox, who pulled his shot across goal.
After the break, Andrews had a rising free-kick deflected over, but Ireland were kept on their guard at the other end when Forrest couldn't direct Robson's cross on target.
Both sides made changes as the large tartan army at the Havelock Square end urged their team forward and they began to threaten.
They deserved at least a draw, but couldn't finish their dinner as Forrest missed a glorious opener, Naismith followed it with a worse miss and Miller had an opportune effort touched away by Given.
IRELAND -- Given 7; McShane 8, Kelly 6, O'Dea 5 (Foley 6, 66), Ward 5; Lawrence 6 (Coleman 6, 62), Fahey 7, Andrews 7, Hunt 9; Cox 8, Keane 8 (Treacy 83).
SCOTLAND -- McGregor 5; Whittaker 6, Berra 5, Hanley 5, Bardsley 7; Robson 7 (Maguire 6, 75), Brown 6, Adam 6 (Bannan 6, 62), Forrest 6; Naismith 7; Miller 5.
REF-- M Whitby (Wales).