ROBBIE KEANE believes that Damien Duff, who is expected to announce his retirement from international football after captaining the side on the occasion of his 100th cap against Italy tonight, will go down in legend as one of Ireland's best-ever players.
Duff has been handed the honour of wearing the captain's armband for Ireland's last hurrah at Euro 2012 as a tribute to the fact that he's playing for the 100th time, though Duff looked ill at ease with the extra attention when he faced the media last night, Duffer participating in the pre-match press conference as part of UEFA protocol as captain.
Keane, who has been the team's skipper since he was handed the armband by Steve Staunton in 2006, says that the 100-cap mark is a tribute to a great player.
"He will probably go down in history as one of the greatest Ireland players of all time," Keane says.
"He's such a great fella, very, very humble and does not want a fuss made of him. For anybody to reach 100 caps and to do that in such a special game is a great credit to him.
"He has had to battle with injuries. Although me and Duffer started off at the same time, I am about 20 caps ahead of him.
"Unfortunately, he has had a few injuries along the way but to now get 100 caps is a credit to him. All the lads in the squad really respect him and he's a great guy.
"He's a real character and I obviously know Duffer probably more than anybody on the team. We go back a long way and we are great friends.
"Damien's very, very quiet in front of the cameras and the media but off the pitch he is great company," said Keane, who made his debut alongside Duff in a friendly against the Czech Republic in Olomouc 14 years ago.
"It's down to quality. He's a quality player. Since he started at club level at the age of 17 he has been a top, top player," added Keane.
"He has not changed and his desire and commitment for his country is great to see.
"He is now reaching 100 caps and it's well deserved -- and the desire and hunger he still has for the game is great."