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Scunthorpe's Dublin hot-shot aims to complete U21 mission

BIRTHDAY boy Andy Keogh has already put Ireland firmly on course for the European U21 Championships, but he will be looking to complete the mission at Buckley Park tonight (7.30).

The Scunthorpe striker, who turned 20 on Tuesday, scored twice in the Azeri capital, Baku, to give Don Givens' side a 2-1 advantage in the preliminary qualifier and considering Keogh was only in the starting line-up due to an ankle injury sustained by Bohemians striker, Stephen Ward, his brace was even more impressive.

The Dubliner definitely isn't complaining and is delighted to be off the mark on the international stage, with three caps now under his belt.

"It was great on a personal level and for the team as well," he reflected of the Azeri experience. "We got the result we needed out there in tough conditions and hopefully we can finish the job off tonight.

"Stephen had been doing well and I played with him in Madeira. He is a great player and has been banging the goals in, but I was just happy to fill in for the moment and hopefully I'll get a chance to play with him in the future."

Keogh's form is not surprising, especially when his contribution to Scunthorpe's season is analysed. He has been on target 11 times in League One, scored another three in the Cup and formed one half of the League's most lethal partnerships, plundering 38 goals in total with teammate Billy Sharp.

It's been a fine first season since moving from Leeds and Keogh has been reacquainted with a former Elland Road colleague this week, Drogheda's Paul Keegan.

Don Givens reckoned Keegan was Ireland's best player in Azerbaijan and Keogh, even taking his two goals into account, was of a similar opinion about the combative midfielder.

"Keegs had a great game," said Keogh. "I know him from my days back at Leeds. I was surprised that he actually left because I've always rated him as a player. He is a great holding midfielder and is precise in his passing too."

Keegan retains his place at the centre of a midfield trio tonight and will be flanked by Willo Flood and Michael Timlin. Rene Gilmartin is the only change to the team, as he comes into goal for the suspended Darren Quigley, who was sent-off in Baku.

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Up front, Keogh will again lead the line and after tonight will hopefully be looking forward to dates with Belgium and Greece in the competition proper this September.

IRELAND (4-3-3) - Gilmartin; Foley, R Keogh, Bruce, Painter; Flood, Keegan, Timlin; McGeady, A Keogh, O'Donovan.

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