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Derby skipper Keogh primed to anchor Ireland defensive line against Strachan's bravehearts

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Ireland's Richard Keogh

Ireland's Richard Keogh

SPORTSFILE

Ireland's Richard Keogh

REPUBLIC of Ireland defender Richard Keogh can't wait to say 'hello' to the raiding Scottish strikers in the white-hot atmosphere at Parkhead tomorrow night.

Keogh, the 28-year-old Derby County skipper is just hoping that he will get the opportunity to line up alongside John O'Shea at the heart of the Irish defence as Martin O'Neill's side bid for one more huge away performance.

Three points gained at the expense of Gordon Strachan's Bravehearts in their home territory would leave the Irish boss and his players very content as they face the Christmas break in the qualifying campaign.

Injury to Marc Wilson enhances Keogh's chances of selection and he can only wait and wonder about the manager's decision on the starting X1.

If called upon, Keogh will be right up for the challenge, particularly after experiencing the Parkhead faithful in full intimidatory mode when Celtic played Ajax in the Champions League last season.

"Yeah I was there to watch a Champions League game, and what an atmosphere that was. It was against Ajax last year so I'm expecting the same again and I'm really looking forward to the game.

"A few of us from Derby, we just went up there to experience the game on a Tuesday night. Me, Johnny (Russell), Jeff Hendrick, came as well, and Craig Forsyth. We got tickets and thought it would be a good opportunity to soak up the atmosphere and see a good game," said Keogh.

He hails from Harlow in Essex, but came through the ranks and played for Ireland's U-19s and U-21s sides before finally achieving his cherished ambition of a senior cap.

It was a proud moment for Keogh when he ran out against Poland in February 2013. Since then he has brought his total number of caps to six, and captained the Irish team against Oman last September.

This season Keogh is enjoying his football and with Derby County topping the Championship table, he's brimming with confidence and keen to push for a starting place after missing the last match against Germany through injury.

"Well, it's obviously been nice (at Derby). We're ticking along nicely.

"On a personal level I feel I'm hitting top form. I still feel there's more to come from me.

" I'm hitting hopefully the prime years of my career so I'm in a really good place. I'm excited to be here as always, it's great to meet up with the lads.

"It's just an exciting time.

"For Germany, obviously I had the injury and I had to miss that game. I watched it on TV. I think I gave my wife a heart attack when John O'Shea's goal went in because I screamed that loud at the TV. It was there for everyone to see, wasn't it, the emotion," he said.

O'Shea's goal highlighted the value of defenders making their mark on the score sheet, something of which Keogh is acutely aware.

He retains a very happy memory of scoring for Ireland against Georgia in a friendly last year, and hopes to get more international goals.

"It's important for defenders and players all over the pitch to contribute goals.

"We've got players who can deliver the ball in the right areas from set plays.

"As defenders, we should all try to get on the end of a few.

"That goal, scoring for my country, was probably my favourite goal in my career so far," he said.

Injuries to midfielders Glenn Whelan and James McCarthy could also open the way for Keogh's Derby team-mate Jeff Hendrick to get into the team.

"Jeff is in good form. I have really seen him progress a lot as a player and there is a lot more to come from him and he is still learning.

"He has all the attributes to be a top, top player and I am really pleased for him. He is finding his form, finding what sort of player he is and what his game is about.

"There's a lot more to come from him," said Keogh.

Keogh's Carlow-born father John is making the trip to Glasgow and it would be the icing on the cake for the father to watch his son in action.

"He's really excited about the game," said Keogh.

Irish Independent