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Saturday 3 December 2016

Keane's fears for future of ireland

ROY Keane admits there are "question marks" over his long-term future with the Republic of Ireland and says he will accept his fate if Keane and Martin O'Neill are axed by the FAI at the end of the current qualifying campaign.

With no international tournament to divert us this season, the restart of the Premier League in England months away and even a dearth of League of Ireland football due to the mid-season break, nostalgia and a slightly bleak look to the future took hold in Dublin's Olympia Theatre last night, as Keane conducted a public interview with broadcaster Matt Cooper, in a fundraiser for the Barrettown Camps organisation.

A forthright Keane ran though his career, from the school of hard knocks in the League of Ireland which helped make him (Keane admitted that if he had gone to England as a 16-year old his career might not have panned out the way it did) to his move to Manchester United (Keane not proud of reneging on his agreement to join Blackburn from Nottingham Forest to then sign for Manchester United), media hype (Keane downplayed the importance of his much-vaunted display in the Champions League semi-final defeat of Juventus and also that tackle against Marc Overmars in the World Cup win over Holland) and his own managerial career (he regrets that Keane the manager lacked the patience he had as a player).

He tore into the "bluffers" in the modern game, especially the Premier League manager (unnamed but we can take a guess who he was talking about) who said on camera, after a 3-0 defeat, that his side had been "technically and tactically brilliant", Keane pouring scorn on the idea of that boast after a loss.

The former Ireland captain also engaged on the topic of Saipan again, claiming that the players were told by FAI medical staff on arrival in the far east that "we could die if we didn't take these special rehydration drinks, we could die", only to then be told that the drinks has not yet arrived on the island.

Keane was honest and engaging in a two-hour discussion with Cooper. He didn't play to the crowd when asked about issues facing the Irish game: Keane insisted that League of Ireland players are unlikely to get a call-up to the senior squad unless they move to England and he's concerned about the lack of Irish players at the top clubs in England and said it was "frightening".

He also defended Martin O'Neill and his record with Ireland, insisting that the Irish people need a "reality check" while maintaining that qualification for Euro 2016 was still on the cards.

"Martin is a great man in a game full of bluffers," Keane said.

"He is a bloody good manager. I can be as impatient as anybody but he needs time, and there does seem to be some negativity about, which I can't put my finger on.

"People need to have a reality check, we are nearly a decent team. There was a bit of negativity around, in the media too, after the Scotland game but I would never have a go at someone for not winning a game.

"You need a bit of luck and we are lacking a bit of quality at the moment, we are really relying on Robbie for goals, but our players tried their best against Scotland and I have no issue with that," Keane added.

"The national team has lots a bit of momentum over the last few years, we are truing to get it back now. Momentum can go the other way and we are trying to turn it around."

The FAI's contract with Keane and O'Neill runs out at the end of this campaign and Keane admits he is unsure that the future holds.

"I am not fearful about the future," he admits.

"If the FAI say in a few months' time 'sorry lads, you are out the door' then so be it, I'll survive and if we lose the next four games am sure we will be gone.

"It's all ifs and ands. Will we qualify? If we don't, would the FAI keep us? Would Martin want to stay on? Big question mark, he's a very proud man. If he stays on, will I want to stay on? Would he want me to stay on? If he's gone obviously I will be gone.

"If we stay on, then fantastic but I don't see myself being here for 20 years, I want to manage again at some stage, I think there is a club job out there and I would hope to make a good go of it."

But Keane, wearing the hat of Ireland assistant manager, admits that sourcing top-class players for the national tram is tough, in contrast to the heady days of 1990 when Ireland were in the top ten of the world.

"There is a still a big scouting network in Ireland. But what's happened to young Irish players over the last few years, I don't know," Keane said.

"A lot of the players in 1990 were at big clubs, - United, Chelsea, Arsenal. Now, some of the players we have have been at United, the likes of Robbie Brady and Paul McShane, but it is a concern with these players not at the big clubs, we have one or two lads heading to League One and it's a big worry.

"Whatever clubs they are at - and ideally you want then a Premier League clubs - you want them to be playing every week. A lot of our lads - and we suffer on the international stage due to this - are in the Championship, some of them are not even regulars in the Championship.

"But we can't make excuses for Irish or English players not getting a chance at Premier League clubs, if you are good enough and hungry, you just have to deal with that, you have to roll your sleeves up and get on with it.

"We don't have any Irish players at United now but it's not just at Man U, it's the Arsenals. Before we had Andy Townsend, we had players at Celtic and it's frightening to think that our players are not competing.

"Ok, we had John O'Shea at United and he's at Sunderland now but it's a big problem and it's not a quick fix. We have some good young players at Man City but will they get into the first team there?"

Keane was was keen to downplay his own role in the success of United winning through to the Champions League final in 1999 - Keane picked up a booking in the semi-final win over Juventus and missed the final.

"It was all exaggerated, all I did was score a goal. Watch the game back, I just did ok." he says, later adding that his main regret in his career was not moving to Bayern Munich.

p Roy Keane was speaking at the Olympia Theatre last night in the first of a series of Barretstown Talks public interviews to raise funds for the Barretstown Camps. Barretsown relies on donations to carry on their activities. http://www.barretstown.org

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