herald

Tuesday 24 October 2017

every little helps

Irish No2 Roy hails Given's return and praises progress of McCarthy

IT is an accident of genetics that Roy Keane can carry off Mumford and Sons lumberjack chic with some ease while his boss Martin O'Neill favours something less hirsute.

The frosted face hair sprouting from his chin adds gravitas to an already weighty individual. So much so that the call to arms we've been waiting for sounded all the more reassuring when it came from Keane's mouth.

O'Neill's subclause soliloquies employ many words, twists and turns but when Keane says "We're ready", you get the feeling that Ireland are indeed ready for Georgia.

"All this talk that we will have over the next few days is all nonsense in a sense. What might happen, how we prepare. It's literally just about getting on with it and skip all the small talk," he said and the whole of Ireland agrees.

Ireland may not, in fact, be ready for Georgia at all and but we'll find that out on Sunday and for now, in the build-up, it would be nice to hear a bit of rabble-rousing. It's been an awful long nine months and a dreary few years before that.

It was a warm day for the bearded in Gannon Park yesterday and it was Keane's turn to answer questions. He quickly raised eyebrows with a report on James McCarthy.

Blisters

"I think he got a knock on his ankle. It was never too serious. I think he had one or two blisters as well but I suppose that's what you get from all these new boots," said Keane eyes rolling to the sky.

"We've just got to have him available for the weekend. Obviously when a player misses two or three days training, you start to worry a little bit. I don't think he was ever necessarily going to be in doubt for Sunday. You want lads at training; you want to see with your own eyes that they are okay."

Keane urges caution where McCarthy's future development is concerned: "It will come with experience, getting more games under his belt. He's at a good team, he's had a good move the last year. A lot has happened to him in the last year or two. I think he must be delighted with progress.

"People say he's got to, maybe, establish himself more, a bit more of a personality but that will come. But it mightn't come. He seems a quiet lad. You can't be somebody you're not."

Keane was centrally involved in Shay Given's return to the senior international squad and he sees it as a win-win for Ireland.

"We never shut any doors and obviously when I got back to Villa," he said, his voice trailing away. "I saw him last year up at Middlesbrough . I'm always looking at all the players. We were looking at the other keepers and if Shay fancied it, then why not?"

"Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and he's been good in the group. Obviously, he wasn't going to be tested against Oman but the manager has got to make a decision. He's got three or four good goalkeepers."

Keane is more than happy to absorb a mountain of international experience back into the squad but he doesn't see Given as a plug for the gap left by Richard Dunne.

"No I don't think it was necessarily Richard. Richard has been struggling the last one or two years anyway with injuries and nobody was shocked that Richard was going to retire from international football. That's a separate issue."

"Put it this way, when you go into these qualifying matches, there's no problem with going with young players who are doing well. But you can't beat experienced players even if they're not in the starting eleven."

"If you ask the goalkeepers, I can guarantee they have benefited from Shay being involved. You're looking for every little percentage that might help us."

Lucky

Keane is clearly enjoying his busy schedule and believes that both Ireland and Aston Villa can gain from his double life.

"I just feel lucky that as a coach I will benefit working at Premier League level; working with good players and a good manager at Villa. That's why I made the decision when the opportunity came up.

"Hopefully whatever I'm learning at Villa, I'll bring to Ireland and vice versa," he said, before admitting that he now has the perfect mix.

"Definitely, that's why I took the role. From a selfish point of view, if I can work in the Premier League, work with the senior team here and still have an input in the 21s and different courses that might be going on. I think I'm very lucky," said the Ireland No. 2.

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