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Keogh's Euro mission

HE'S GONE from being the favoured son to the forgotten one.

Andy Keogh, despite an excellent run of form with Millwall in the Championship, is not expected to make it into the Ireland squad for the Euro 2012 finals, even though he was there at the start of the campaign (he played in three of the first four Euro 2012 qualifiers). Indeed, he was there when the whole Trapattoni regime took hold (Keogh had the honour of scoring Ireland's first goal under the Italian, against Serbia back in 2008).

The 25-year-old maintains that exclusion from the final 23 for the finals in Poland, just like his significant omission from the 24-man squad for the recent friendly against the Czech Republic, would be hard to take.

But Keogh, who won the last of his 22 senior caps against Croatia last August, is praying that the door to Poland is not closed in his face just yet.

"I have to hope that the door is still open and keep doing what I have been doing since I went to Millwall. I have been scoring goals and playing well for the club and some people have noticed that, but I can't do any more in terms of Ireland," Keogh told the Evening Herald.

"I wasn't in for the last game against the Czechs, you don't get told that you're in or not in it. You just see the squad and see if your name's there or not.

"It was disappointing at the time, but I just got my head down, told myself to just play the best football I could and see what happens. I'm happy with how I reacted to things and hopefully everything else will look after itself.



DECISION

"If the Ireland manager wants me for the squad I know in my heart that I am on form, but if he doesn't want me I'll wish him and the rest of the squad well. It's his decision, and it's what he's paid for, to make these calls," added Keogh, who is unaware if the Ireland management team -- especially the London-based Marco Tardelli -- have been to see him in the flesh.

"I don't know if the FAI have been to the games, probably not as Millwall are not one of the big guns. I'd like to think that someone has been watching as I have been playing well, you never know.

"I always knew that if I got a permanent move away from Wolves I could get into my stride. My form has been good, I am scoring goals and that's all I can do. I can't do any more to impress the Ireland manager.

"It was always my dream to play for my country. I feel the same if it's my first cap or my 20th. I love every chance I get to play for Ireland, I am a proper Irishman and playing for my country means so much to me. I can never give up hope or say 'I'll never get a chance again'."



Nervous

There is a nervous few weeks ahead for a batch of Irish players, as it will be clear within the next month what 23 players Trapattoni plans to take to Poland. The manager has already stated that the squad he picks for the friendly against Bosnia will, barring injury, be the same squad which will fly out to Poland for the finals, via a training camp in Italy and a friendly away to Hungary.

Players like James McClean, James McCarthy and Seamus Coleman are borderline cases, but at least they stand a chance of making it into the final 23.

For older servants like Keogh, Paul McShane, Liam Lawrence, Damien Delaney and Wes Hoolahan, the fact that they didn't make it into a 24-man squad against the Czech Republic in February says it all.

It's odd, then, that Keogh is now unable to get into the Ireland squad at a time when his club career is flying, whereas in the past he was included by Trapattoni when he was struggling with his club, Wolves, or on one of his many loan spells away from that club.

For Keogh, that decision to leave Premier League side Wolves and join Millwall in January on a permanent deal has paid off.

"It's going well. I've scored six goals now and overall I am pleased with my form and what I have done. We're pulling away from the relegation zone and that's one of the reasons why I came to the club, to help Millwall get out of trouble and further up the table and thankfully we're doing that now," he says.

It's a sign of Keogh's form that he's second top scorer at the club -- but it's also a sign of how bad they have been this season that he is their second-highest scorer even though he's only been there for less than half a season.



Brilliant

"I've only played 13 or so games but I think I've done well in them all and it looks like we're staying up now. All that counts is the club avoiding relegation.

"The manager here has been brilliant with me. He's shown a lot of faith in me and given me a lot of responsibility and I appreciate all that he's done for me," added Keogh.

"I needed something new in my career.

"I needed someone that believed in me, I needed a club that wanted me and Millwall were the ones who showed me that.

"I know I dropped down a division by leaving Wolves and it could be said that I dropped down in stature in terms of the club's name, but I know that this was absolutely the right move for me."

Keogh admits that his confidence had dipped during some hard times recently but the London move has led to a rebirth.

"Any manager who believes in you will give you confidence, and then when the goals come, you just go from strength to strength," says Keogh.

"So it's all going to plan on the club side of things as Millwall are very close to safety now -- there's just that matter of non-involvement in the Euros in June.

Last week, another one of Ireland's forgotten men -- Norwich star Wes Hoolahan -- told this newspaper that he was planning to go to Euro 2012 as a regular punter, the whole campervan deal with his mates, if he fails to make it into the squad, but that's not for Keogh.



GUTTED

"I'd find it hard to take, not being in the squad," he says. "I'd be so gutted from not making the squad that I don't think I could handle being there as a fan.

"I'll support the team and support the lads.

"Ever since I could kick a ball I dreamed about playing for Ireland. A lot of time and commitment has been given to the cause.

"I'd watch the games but I'd try to get away from it all, recharge the batteries for next season and make sure that this never happens to me again."


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