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Tardelli pleased to see Keane in training

ROBBIE KEANE looked drawn and exhausted after his first training session but his surprise presence at Gannon Park drew praise from Ireland assistant Marco Tardelli.

After a taxing three games in seven days and a long-haul flight from LA, Keane would have been excused training duty but was adamant about making the effort.

"I asked him if he wanted to stay in the hotel and rest but he wanted to train because he is feeling fit and well," said Tardelli.

"He is our captain and knows it's a very important match for the country, for the players, for everyone. He understands the responsibility."

Keane set the tone for the rest of the Ireland squad by making what was clearly an extra effort for this play-off double against Estonia -- and Tardelli is happy that he did.

"He looked sharp and it is good for us that he feels so good," Tardelli said with a smile. "Sure, we have had problems with the other strikers, with Long and Best and Doyle is suspended. I think we need Robbie Keane."


Trapattoni had some walking wounded to worry about for yesterday's session and Richard Dunne, Shay Given and Keith Andrews all took a day off suffering from a stiff neck, a knee knock and a dose of the sniffles respectively.

Keith Fahey has a problem with his knee and took no part, while reserve goalkeeper David Forde has been replaced by Darron Randolph.

Tardelli is careful to echo Trapattoni's warning about Estonia and the threat they carry.

"They are strong physically and have a good balance between the midfield and the strikers. Maybe it is lacking creativity, maybe, but it's a good team and it has shown that by scoring 15 goals like us and finishing second, like us. So we have to be careful.

"When we saw the draw, we were very happy because we drew Estonia, but Estonia were very happy too because they drew us," he added.

"We are not favourites. We have a 50pc chance like Estonia. If we think we are favourites then it would be very dangerous.

"This is the match of a lifetime for many of our players and for some, maybe it is the last chance.

"This is important also for the Irish people. I am very close to my country, and I think these players are very close to their country. I always felt very emotional when I stood on the pitch during the national anthem and I think it's the same for these players."