Sunday 16 December 2018

HOW ROBBIE CAME OF AGE

*To the English public, Robbie Keane seems a kind of innocent, fun-loving figure, renowned for his clumsy goal celebration that involves running to the edge of the pitch, performing a cartwheel and then bending on his knee to fire an imaginary longbow.

"He's such a bubbly lad that anyone who meets him loves him," once said his former boss Glenn Hoddle.

After Cyprus, his presence seemed less loveable to the Irish public. His overhead kick in Nicosia that meandered wide of the post seemed even more ungainly than his customary goal celebrations.

As a captain for his team, Robbie Keane seems persistently to underperform, but he redeemed himself on Wednesday, when, alongside Damien Duff, he displayed skill, passion and determination.

He showed that, contrary to all the dire prognostications after Cyprus, that Ireland players could still wear the national badge with pride. What is more, he showed dignity by not taking a dive early on in the game, when hustled by Jiranek, and could have snatched the game at the end when he missed a close-range header.

Keane is often criticised for not showing maturity in his capacity as captain, but on Wednesday his leadership skills were manifest.

Admittedly, as Eamon Dunphy said, it wasn't as though Ireland had beaten Brazil, but Keane's enthusiastic and commanding performance suggests that the doom-mongers, who had written the Irish football team's obituary after Cyprus, had written them prematurely.

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