Friday 19 January 2018

Robbie Keane dreams of Euros happy ending for his Ireland journey

Robbie Keane presents President Michael D Higgins with a jersey during the LA Galaxy team's visit to Áras an Uachtaráin. Photo: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
Robbie Keane presents President Michael D Higgins with a jersey during the LA Galaxy team's visit to Áras an Uachtaráin. Photo: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Robbie Keane is familiar with the drill by now. Ireland's record goalscorer has consistently made it clear that he intends to prolong his football career for as long as possible.

Yet every time he faces a room of reporters, the Dubliner finds himself locked in discussions about his long-term intentions. Occasionally, there is a variation on the theme but the answer is generally the same.

"If I feel the way I feel now, then of course I want to play as long as I can," repeated the 34-year-old yesterday, back in familiar territory on a fundraising visit to Crumlin's Children Hospital ahead of LA Galaxy's friendly with Shamrock Rovers on Saturday.

The location certainly lent itself to nostalgia. Keane played his schoolboy football with Crumlin United and remembers his time there fondly. He recalls a few trips to the hospital too with a broken arm springing to mind. On his way in yesterday, he passed the laneway that he used run down as a shortcut to training.

What it reminded him is that he retains the same buzz for the sport which has dominated his life. "I still get that little feeling in your stomach that I had when I was that little kid trying to go to England," he smiles, "I still have that buzz when I put the jersey on whether it's the Galaxy jersey or the Irish jersey."

Ryan Giggs and Teddy Sheringham made it to 40 and Keane intends to do the same. He knows that injuries may have the final say and notes that his good pals Damien Duff and Richard Dunne have both been struck down in recent weeks with setbacks that could have an impact on their next move.

"I've been lucky that I haven't had too many injuries," he admits, adding that he has dabbled in yoga to aid a natural flexibility that has kept his muscle-related absences to a minimum.

"With Duffer and Richie, they've had long-term injuries over their career. Whether that's going to take a toll on them or whether they want to keep going or not, I'm not really too sure but if they get themselves fit I'm sure there'll be clubs queueing at the door for them because they're two quality players."

That pair did hang up their international boots to prolong their club existence, a temptation that Keane has refused.

His passion for national service is clear, and he is grateful that Galaxy boss Bruce Arena has always encouraged it. It would suggest that Irish commitments will not influence ongoing negotiations with the Californians about extending his contract which expires at the end of the year.

Guaranteed

However, when pressed on whether qualification for Euro 2016 would offer the perfect opportunity to end his days in the green jersey on a high note, Keane did not exactly disagree.

"It's not guaranteed," he stressed, "But there is certainly a chance that would be the case.

"The Euros in 2012 is something you want to forget about. I don't think about it too much but look it, I just want to do my best for the country. If that's getting to another Euros then great, the whole country wants that and that's why we play the game to play in these tournaments.

"The World Cup and the Euros, you don't get any bigger than that. If we get there it will be great for me and to finish off on that would be fantastic."

The skipper was benched for the November loss to Scotland and faces a battle to regain his place in Martin O'Neill's side for next month's Aviva Stadium encounter with Poland.

He feels in good health, though, and knows that the pressure to deliver for Galaxy will keep him sharp.

"I have to be on my game," he says, "People are relying on me in the team to be that guy, especially being a designated player. You have to kind of produce more often than not. That's a challenge in itself and something I enjoy that motivates me."

While he has made coaching plans, the prospect of life without football is scary. His determination to plough on is inspired by speaking with ex-pros who checked out too early.

"There are a few players - I won't mention their names - but they certainly regretted that they stopped. They definitely could have carried on for a few more years.

"I think the mental side of the game for certain players can be tough. Players think they have played for a long time and think, 'Oh I've done enough now', but the reality is you're finished a long time. But even if I didn't speak to them players, it's for me, I love what I do."

Robbie Keane is an ambassador for CMRF Crumlin, the fundraising arm of Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin and was present at the handover of a $50,000 cheque from LA Galaxy and their sponsors Herbalife to CMRF Crumlin. Robbie is also an ambassador for CMRF Crumlin's current campaign 'Give It Up for Crumlin'. For more see www.giveitup.ie

Irish Independent

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