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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Kevin Kilbane: Robbie Keane won't get on his bike just yet

Kilbane: draw suits Ireland and Germany

Robbie Keane
Robbie Keane
Kevin Kilbane and John Giles
Soccer legend and Herald columnist John Giles chats with Kevin kilbane at the launch of Westport sea 2 summit adventure race in Saba, Dublin.

As someone who was taken off at half time on his international debut and then sent back to the U21 squad to learn his trade a bit more, Kevin Kilbane knows a thing or two about the feeling of being "dragged off" and then left to stew in your own thoughts while your team-mates carry on.

And while Kilbane admits that his former Ireland team-mate Robbie Keane will be "hurt" by the ignominy of being replaced at the break by Shane Long in Monday's Euro 2016 qualifier win over Georgia, Kilbane says it's way too early to write Keane's international football obituary.

Keane did score two goals against Gibraltar last week, taking his tally to 67, but the 35-year-old looked off the pace in Monday's clash with the Germans and Martin O'Neill opted to take off his captain, sending Shane Long into battle for the second half.

It's possible that Keane has started his last game, and scored his last goal, for Ireland but for Kilbane, Keane's status and goals record will cause Germany and Poland to fear Ireland in the key October qualifiers.

"I've done it playing against old Croatian teams," says Kilbane, speaking in Dublin to promote the Westport Sea2Summit race in November.

"You'd see Prosinecki and you'd be thinking 'oh, he's still in the side'. And that'll definitely be the case with Robbie and all the goals he's scored. It stands for a lot within the mindset of other players.

"On Monday night, Robbie was a bit isolated, he couldn't get into the game but there's defenders with him constantly trying to stop him and that leave space for one or two other players.

"I remember when I got injured for the Russia game under Trap and I was leaving the squad, thinking it was the last time I was going to be in the squad so you never know. I remember having that feeling but I doubt Robbie is at that stage.

"Two goals the other night suggest he's not finished but maybe off the bench," added Kilbane.

"When he came on against Scotland, when we were struggling after a good 50-60 minutes, he looked the real quality player on the pitch and Robbie still has that class, that edge to the game that we need."

But being taken off so early will not rest easy with Keane. "Players say 'you get dragged at half time', that's what they say and Robbie wouldn't have liked that, he'll be hurt. It does hurt," added the veteran.

"Any player that does get substituted during a first half, that's probably the worst but sometimes that needs to happen."

But Kilbane, who missed out on Euro 2012, remains upbeat about Ireland's chances of making it to France, though a draw in the home tie with Germany is most likely. As happened for Euro 2008, a draw for the Germans in Dublin will secure qualification.

"It suits us to that extent, knowing that Germany come here just needing that point. Are they going to go pushing it?

"In both sets of players' mindset you'd take a point, that's the case and a point could be enough for us.

"Germany will be in a different mindset as they have teed it up for themselves, one point guarantees them qualification. It does change the dynamic of the game that they only need a point and it suits Ireland, definitely."

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