Thursday 21 September 2017

Keane excited by first game on familiar turf

LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena and captain Robbie Keane see the funny side of things at yesterday’s press conference in Tallaght
LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena and captain Robbie Keane see the funny side of things at yesterday’s press conference in Tallaght
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

When Robbie Keane was a kid growing up in Tallaght, there was no stadium in the locality to go and watch senior football.

He vaguely recalls taking a bus across town to watch a few League of Ireland games at Shelbourne, with the dashing wing play of the legendary Mark Rutherford sticking in the mind.

It's different now, of course, with Shamrock Rovers playing out of the Tallaght Stadium, a development that has brought big occasions to the community.

Keane gets his turn today as the Hoops host LA Galaxy in a friendly (4.00) that has generated local interest - 3,000 punters, a number swelled by the mid-term break from school, turned up for the MLS champions' open training yesterday.

With 4,000 tickets sold for today's game and a strong walk-up crowd anticipated, there is confidence that it could be close to a full house. Rovers will profit from ticket sales.

"As soon as I heard of a Shamrock Rovers stadium in Tallaght, I knew it was a great thing for the community," said Keane before he was mobbed by fans to the extent that he stayed around for an hour after the session with his colleagues long since departed so he could satisfy autograph and picture requests.

"My nephews come here regularly and have season tickets for Shamrock Rovers.

"Even though it took a long time to finish it, it's a great stadium, a very compact stadium.

"I haven't played here before but I've trained here a few times with the Irish team. I'm sure it will be a good atmosphere and I'm excited about playing in Tallaght."

QUALITY

Keane expects a stern test in a match where rival managers Bruce Arena and Pat Fenlon are looking to build fitness levels. He is well aware of the quality of Hoops duo Keith Fahey and Stephen McPhail.

"They've played at the highest level," said the 34-year-old. "They are both very comfortable on the ball. Certainly Stephen. . . I don't think I've ever seen him give the ball away. And Keith is technically very good.

"It's probably a manager's dream to have a player like him because he can fit him into different positions, depending on how the game is going. He certainly brought that to the international fold. He is a very, very good player.

"So it will be a tough game. Having those two players playing for League of Ireland with the experience of playing in England and playing international football is only good for the league."

Fenlon will use the match to give triallists Max Blanchard and Tim Clancy another chance to impress.

He also hopes for a strong home display to lure back some fans who have drifted away during a challenging period for the club in their adopted home.

"It's about trying to entice them back. We have a chance to bring a lot of people here," he said.

"It's important all round that we get the place fairly full again as the crowds were disappointing last year.

"If you're not competitive and competing at the top end of the table, not just Rovers but at most grounds. . . you saw the teams competing last year, Dundalk and Cork, their gates were massively up but if they were fourth or fifth they would struggle for gates.

"It's unfortunate but that's the way this league is, you need to be competing at the top end to keep people interested."

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