Friday 23 March 2018

Kilbane puts quit thoughts behind him

Kevin Kilbane is in line for a record 105th appearance for Ireland. Photo: Getty Images
Kevin Kilbane is in line for a record 105th appearance for Ireland. Photo: Getty Images

Kevin Kilbane has put thoughts of international retirement to one side as he plots a final adventure with the Republic of Ireland.

The 33-year-old defender did seriously consider calling it a day for his country after their heartbreaking World Cup play-off exit in France in November last year.

However, 13 years after winning his first senior cap against Iceland, Kilbane will be back in harness in Yerevan on Friday night as the Republic attempt to open their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign with a victory over Armenia.

The Hull defender, along with keeper Shay Given, is in line for a record 105th appearance for Ireland at the Yerevan Republic Stadium, something he admits might not have happened at one point.

Manager Giovanni Trapattoni has spoken candidly of the emergence of new talent, including Manchester City's Greg Cunningham, and that could mean fewer chances for the veteran.

Kilbane said: "The question was asked at the end of the last campaign about Robbie [Keane], Damien [Duff] and even John O'Shea, but they are key for us.

"I think they all still want to be a part of a team going to a tournament finals, and this is the chance.

"We have never had a massive pool of players, but we are very much a team together.

"It would be all too easy when you are not involved in every game to walk out and say, 'I have had enough'.

"No. I will sit around and see what happens. I love it, it's the pinnacle for me.

"I spoke to my family and they made it clearer for me and I took plenty of other advice.

"If anyone thought it was time for me to go, that wasn't said and it's nice to hear that people want me to stay around."

Having made that decision, Kilbane accepts he may no longer be an automatic choice, but he is philosophical about his future.

He said: "I'm proud I'm in the squad again. I did consider quitting but at the end of the day, if you are picked, you are picked; if you are not, you are not."

Kilbane, of course, has experienced the thrill of wearing the famous green on the biggest stage of all at the 2002 World Cup finals in the Far East.

He was as disappointed as anyone when they missed out on a trip to South Africa this summer in the most controversial of circumstances.

But it is the pain of that unjust near miss which is fuelling his mission to make it to Poland and Ukraine in two years' time.

Kilbane said: "We haven't qualified [for a major tournament] in five or six years, and so the young lads have had no real no chance to shine.

"This is the time for lads like Kevin Doyle to shine. We need to qualify so they can have their chance on a big stage."

The trip to Armenia is followed by the visit of minnows Andorra to the Aviva Stadium in Dublin next Tuesday, and with Russia and Slovakia waiting in the wings, Kilbane knows a positive start is imperative.

He said: "The last campaign gave us real belief we can go on and qualify for these European Championships.

"It's going to be a hostile atmosphere there on Friday with Armenia having a really good support, and if we are not quite at it, we could get turned over.

"However, we are going there to win and if we played like we did in last campaign, we have a real chance of getting good start.

"Six points is something we can achieve from the Armenia and Andorra games over the next week."

Press Association

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