ROBBIE KEANE has admitted that he was nervous about his Euro 2012 prospects when he couldn't even run at three-quarter pace after damaging his hamstring a fortnight ago.
The Ireland skipper picked up the injury playing on an Astroturf surface for LA Galaxy, a problem that the Dubliner has suffered before in the MLS.
Fortunately, Ireland's goalscorer only sustained a slight pull rather than a tear, and is therefore fit to lead the line in today's friendly with Bosnia at Lansdowne Road.
"I reacted badly to the Astroturf last year too," said Keane yesterday. "I injured my glute then. I'm obviously not used to playing on it, and my body reacts differently to the others who are well used to it.
"I really tightened up in my hamstring. I couldn't sprint, even at three-quarter pace. But lucky enough it wasn't a tear. The physio at LA Galaxy helped, by making a decision not to play in the next game.
"I knew it wasn't too bad, and it seems to have settled down, but if I had played in that match against Chivas, then I could have pulled it."
Keane admitted that it's been an uneasy time this week, with a variety of senior men carrying various ailments. Shay Given and John O'Shea miss this game, while Richard Dunne and Sean St Ledger play through what management consider to be minor problems.
"Any player at a major tournament, the last thing you want is niggles," he stressed. "But you prefer that to a major injury. The lads are fine. I think it was just precaution for Shay to go over and make sure in his own mind that he's okay. Richard was the same, he thought he would be okay.
"It's amazing what a difference one or two days can make. Maybe people who have never played the game might not realise that, but it really can be a huge help."
After his starring role in 2002, the skipper is feeding off the buzz around the country.
In fact, he senses a greater excitement this time around, possibly deriving from the pain of so many near misses.
"Ask me to name one song from 2002 and I don't think I could. There's probably 100 songs going around now that everyone knows," he laughed.
"I don't remember the same kind of feeling around the country, and I do believe it's different to 2002.
"That comes from how well we've done as a team. The level has increased a hell of a lot, and that's full credit to the backroom staff."