Saturday 20 January 2018

Sammon hopes to rise to challenge

Ireland striker Conor Sammon is desperate for a chance to try to fill Robbie Keane's boots
Ireland striker Conor Sammon is desperate for a chance to try to fill Robbie Keane's boots

Conor Sammon is ready to take up the daunting challenge of trying to fill Ireland skipper Robbie Keane's boots.

The Derby frontman, still coming to terms with the misery of Sky Bet Championship play-off final defeat, will hope for a chance to prove his worth at international level on Saturday when Ireland face World Cup-bound Italy in a friendly at Craven Cottage.

LA Galaxy marksman Keane, whose 62 international goals have established him as far and away his country's all-time leading scorer, will not join up with the squad until the American leg of their summer tour, and that means Sammon, along with Shane Long, Anthony Stokes, Jon Walters, Kevin Doyle, Simon Cox and Daryl Murphy, could get a chance to impress new manager Martin O'Neill.

The 27-year-old said: "It's a great opportunity for all the strikers here to really go and stake a claim in any of the games that we do get.

"Robbie Keane's record is phenomenal, it's going to be very hard to match that, but it is important for lads, once we get the opportunities, to go and take them and really stake a claim.

"The hardest thing to do in football is to score goals. We have to be positive, and I definitely, and I think the rest of the boys believe that we are all good enough to go in there and do a job.

"I have not played enough games for my club, maybe, to show the manager any time he has come to watch us, so it's a great opportunity for me to come here, train this week and try to stake a claim and show the manager what I can do.

"Hopefully I will get some opportunity against Italy."

Sammon played much of his football last season as a substitute and is desperate to earn more starts for both club and country.

However, he will not be fazed by the task ahead of him if O'Neill throws him in at the deep end against the Italians having started against reigning World and European champions Spain in Ireland's 2-0 friendly defeat at Yankee Stadium in New York 12 months ago.

Indeed, Sammon is confident he and his team-mates, who have made something of a habit of ruffling feathers over the years, will make life distinctly uncomfortable for Cesare Prandelli's men, as well as Costa Rica and Portugal when they head across the Atlantic.

He said: "The Spain game is the perfect example of a match that people would look at and think we have got no chance, we would be played off the park.

"But we did do really well against Spain. It's a great test to play against the likes of Italy, the likes of Portugal and Costa Rica as well.

"It's a great challenge for us as a group of players under the new management staff as well to go out and show we can rise to the occasion of playing such big teams."

The Italy game will be Sammon's only opportunity to impress as he will not travel to America because of his wedding.

Asked if he had considered postponing his nuptials, he said with a smile: "My missus would have a canary."

Press Association

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