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'Ireland job is perfect for Robbie' says Pires

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Robert Pires (l) and Gaizka Mendieta (r) chat to FAI Development Officer Marc Kenny during the Street Legends Community Football Event on Mountjoy Square South yesterday

Robert Pires (l) and Gaizka Mendieta (r) chat to FAI Development Officer Marc Kenny during the Street Legends Community Football Event on Mountjoy Square South yesterday

Robert Pires (l) and Gaizka Mendieta (r) chat to FAI Development Officer Marc Kenny during the Street Legends Community Football Event on Mountjoy Square South yesterday

For all his efforts with the national team, Robbie Keane never came close to landing a major trophy with the Republic of Ireland.

The challenge for the Dubliner, now officially an ex-player following the announcement this week of his retirement, is to Make Ireland Great again, as he's been added to the coaching ticket of Mick McCarthy and his new regime as Ireland boss.

And a visitor to Dublin this week ahead of Sunday's draw for Euro 2020, a man with medals (proper medals) from international football, believes that Keane can make a real impact with Ireland as a coach and help the Irish team out of their slump.

You can't walk down a street in Dublin this week without bumping into a former international. Ex-Ireland players Stephen Kelly and Wes Hoolahan were on promotional duties, on their native northside, for gigs ahead of the Euro 2020 draw on Sunday.

Future

Yesterday, Robert Pires (World Cup and European Championship winner with France) was in town alongside Gaizka Mendieta (40 caps for Spain, including a World Cup win over Ireland on penalties in 2002), and later today the Ireland squad from Euro '88 will be honoured at the Mansion House.

Pires never played against Keane at international level but their paths crossed many times in the Premier League, and the ex-France star feels that his old for from those Arsenal v Spurs battles will do well with Ireland.

"It's perfect, perfect for him because he can give some good advice for the new generation, for the new players," Pires said.

"He is a very good example, a very good role model, he is good for the present and future, because I know in Ireland, you love football. It's very good news.

"I just feel about the new generation for your country, this guy can help, he can give some very good advice.

"For Irish football it's good, if he stays in football and can help your country, maybe you need a player like this as he was a great player and he has a lot of experience.

"I don't know if you have good players, good quality or good talent but maybe he can find someone, because he knows football, Robbie," added Pires.

Mendieta did come up against Keane, in Suwon at the 2002 World Cup finals, where his penalty was the decisive one in the shoot-out which ended Irish interest in the competition.

He also backs Keane's move into coaching with the FAI.

"It's good that he's moving into management to help the national team. For the players now and the new generation coming through, it will be good to have his experience on the staff. Most of them will have seen him play and will admire him. And it will be a good learning experience for him too," says Mendieta.

Now 44, Mendieta is not working in football directly but is involved in media and promotion work, the Basque happy that his native city, Bilbao, joins Dublin as one of the host cities for Euro 2020.

But he knows that one moment in a career that saw him win 44 caps and play in two Champions League finals has come to define him, in Irish eyes at least: that successful penalty past Shay Given to defeat Ireland in a shoot-out in 2002.

"It only happens if I meet an Irish guy but yes, it still happens," he says when asked if he's reminded.

"It was one of the highlights of the World Cup and it was a very important penalty for us to get us through.

"Sadly we were knocked out of that World Cup and, for me, it was not my greatest penalty, I must say. It could have been better but it went in."


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