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Republic of Ireland's Conor Sammon (right) and Faroe Islands' Rogvi Baldvinsson in action during the FIFA World Cup Qualifying match at the Aviva Stadium, Ireland.

Republic of Ireland's Conor Sammon (right) and Faroe Islands' Rogvi Baldvinsson in action during the FIFA World Cup Qualifying match at the Aviva Stadium, Ireland.

Republic of Ireland's Conor Sammon (right) and Faroe Islands' Rogvi Baldvinsson in action during the FIFA World Cup Qualifying match at the Aviva Stadium, Ireland.

TEN YEARS to the very day since he scored an early goal to help a nervous-looking Ireland eke out a win at home to Albania, Robbie Keane was once again the man to ease nerves for the nation.

After that 2003 win, on a 2-1 scoreline, Brian Kerr's Ireland side went on a four-game unbeaten run before qualification hopes petered out with a limp defeat in the city of Basel and a painful period of non-qualification for major tournaments followed, so we can only hope that a repeat is not on the cards when the serious stuff of World Cup qualifying resumes in September.

Then, as now, Keane was vital to Ireland's hopes and with his three-goal blast against the Faroes last night – only the second hat-trick of his international career – underlined once again how important he is to the national side.

PERIODS

For long periods of the 90 minutes against the Faroes last night Ireland looked tired and sluggish and a sharper outfit than a young and inexperienced Nordic side would have given Giovanni Trapattoni's team more of a test.

But it was the Robbie Keane show, some class finishing from the 32-year-old and a throwback to an even older era with the arrival on the field for the last 17 minutes of Conor Sammon.

Just like the times in the summer of 2002 when Niall Quinn would be summoned from the bench and sent into action to make things happen for Keane, Sammon was called on to do the same and the big Derby County striker came up with yet another assist for Keane, his second in the space of a few days.

For all his faults, Sammon is proving to be an effective wing man for Keane when the original idea isn't quite working out according to plan, and the display of Sammon will be one of the notions which Trapattoni will mull over on the flight to New York today, the question being whether that double-act of Keane and Sammon, which came up with some results against Georgia and the Faroe Islands, can work against the Swedes and the Austrians.

Yet it was a big night for Keane on a personal level, the occasion of him establishing a new caps record for the Republic of Ireland and a milestone which it's hard to see anyone breaking in the near future, especially as the player closest to Keane in terms of caps, John O'Shea, is almost the same age.

The LA Galaxy man had his four-year-old son, Robert jnr, as a mascot for the game and, once Ireland took the lead on four minutes through the captain and record goalscorer, the question did arise as to whether a couple of the mascots could get a run-out against the Faroes late on, should the goals continue to flow.

The goal was one of the easier ones of Keane's career, Aiden McGeady doing the build-up work down the left wing and sending in a cross for Keane to finish off.

But the flood of goals did not materialise, the chances kept coming and the pressure remained on the away side, but their confident-looking keeper Gunnar Nielsen was intent on having 'One Of Those Days' when he was capable of frustrating the big guns.

Nielsen saved to deny Keane on 26 minutes, did the same again on 34 minutes when once again McGeady was the creator of the danger.

That defensive work seemed to inspire Nielsen's team-mates and Rogvi Baldvinson did well to cut out a dangerous-looking McGeady cross seven minutes before the break.

Emboldened by the fact that they were 'only' 1-0 down, the away side actually had a decent spell of play either side of the half-time break, and Ireland were lucky to not concede a penalty on 47 minutes when Christian Holst was pushed off the ball by Sean St Ledger.

CHANCE

A slip by Marc Wilson on 53 minutes handed a chance to Heini Vandsal, again a concern that possession was being surrendered too easily. And on 55 minutes Keane eased the nerves again with his second of the night, another instinctive finish from a Séamus Coleman ball.

There was time for one more from Keane, as he came up with goal No3, delighting the punters who'd backed him at 11/2 for a hat-trick, goal No59 on a night when Gunnar Nielsen and his team-mates in the away dressing room came away with credit as Ireland said a glad goodbye to a difficult international season.


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