Tuesday 23 January 2018

Is Robbie Keane set to retire? Martin O'Neill says decision will be made soon

Ireland manager Martin O'Neill and Robbie Keane
Ireland manager Martin O'Neill and Robbie Keane

John Fallon

Martin O’Neill has confirmed an announcement on Robbie Keane’s international future will emerge shortly from the player himself.

Ireland’s captain and record goalscorer is expected to retire from the international fold but could make one last appearance in the friendly against Oman on August 31 in Dublin.

He said: “Robbie will make an announcement pretty soon. I'll leave it to him. He has some time left with LA Galaxy and it might be a case of concentrating on that so I'll let him speak.”

Another stalwart who has confirmed his retirement, Shay Given, was praised by O’Neill for his contribution.

The Donegalman won the last of his 134 caps in last October’s memorable win over Germany, a fixture he was forced off in with a knee injury.

“Shay is a fantastic player and goalkeeper, not only for Ireland but also proved his worth at Premier League level, week in week out,” said O’Neill.

“You only have to listen to some of the great players who played with him to see how much he was thought of.

“I’ve no issue with him retiring a second time. After the Euros in Poland four years ago, where he was maybe bot fully fit, he didn't want to leave the international scene in that manner.

“He persuaded himself to come back and I'd no problem with that.

“Who knows what might have happened if it wasn’t for the injury against Germany.

“He's proven himself not only as a great player on the field, but the encouragement he showed for us in the Euros.

“He wanted to play, he was ready to go, but his encouragement to Darren Randolph was second to none.

“I'll miss him from that viewpoint. He's got another year left with Stoke and he wants to focus on that.

“He told me his decision a few days ago and I appreciate that.”

Meanwhile, O’Neill and Roy Keane have yet to sign their new contracts as Ireland’s managerial double-act with the World Cup qualification campaign just five weeks away.

Speaking in Clonmel today ahead of the FAI’s AGM tomorrow, O’Neill confirmed that pen still hasn’t been put to paper on the deal renewals despite “agreement” being reached with the Football Association of Ireland (FAI).

“It (the contract) is ready for signature,” said the Derryman who arrived in Tipperary on Thursday to help the FAI, including chief executive John Delaney, conduct some of their Festival of Football events. “There’s not a problem, I never know what the fuss is about.

“I agreed it some time ago but haven't had the chance to get over. I'd some time off after the Euros and I haven’t had the chance.

“This is my first opportunity to get over. I'm away tomorrow but then I'm back in next week when I hope to see some of the European (club) games.”

Delaney seemed to suggest a fortnight ago that the matter would be rubberstamped this week but it appears not.

Asked when the deal would be signed, Delaney said: “The next time I meet him, I would say in the next week or so.

“Whether that is the back end of next week, it could be at the AGM when he's going to be at the AGM for a couple of days, but everything is agreed.”

While Given and, most likely, Keane won’t be around for the campaign, John O’Shea looks like he will. The Sunderland defender may have reached the ripe age of 35 but is still needed by the Ireland boss for a daunting task at the qualifying for Ireland’s first World Cup in 16 years.

“I spoke to John, and told him if he'd any ideas of retiring, I'd like him to stay around, for his ability,” explained O’Neill.

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