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Saturday 3 December 2016

Martin O'Neill: Robbie Keane deserves a Euros swansong and we must get him there

Republic of Ireland's Robbie Keane and manager Martin O'Neill during a press conference. Republic of Ireland Press Conference, FAI National Training Centre
Republic of Ireland's Robbie Keane and manager Martin O'Neill during a press conference. Republic of Ireland Press Conference, FAI National Training Centre

Martin O'Neill is hoping the Republic of Ireland can hand Robbie Keane and his fellow stalwarts the perfect swansong by qualifying for Euro 2016.

Keane, 35, together with 34-year-old central defender John O'Shea and goalkeeper Shay Given, who is 39, have a total of 380 senior caps between them and are coming towards the end of their distinguished international careers.

However, as they and their team-mates prepare for Thursday evening's Group D qualifier against Germany at the Aviva Stadium, they still have a chance of making it to another finals tournament in France next summer.

Asked where a win over the world champions would rank in his career, manager O'Neill said: "I genuinely don't think that's wildly important. The time to reflect on things is when you have got about 25 minutes left on this earth - and by that time, it's probably too late.

"Genuinely, I am not wildly concerned about it. It would be really terrific if we could make it to France one way or the other. If we could get a result here, it would be terrific. It keeps a bit of momentum going."

O'Neill, who was joined at his pre-match press conference by skipper Keane, added: "Obviously selfishly, I would like to qualify for myself and the backroom staff, but for some of the players, including the man beside me here, it would be terrific. It would be a nice send-off for his international career."

The Republic head into the game and the trip to Poland which follows on Sunday knowing they could still qualify automatically, secure a play-off berth or miss out altogether, and in reality they are pinning their hopes on the middle option.

Keane, who trained with his team-mates on Wednesday morning for the first time since his delayed arrival from Los Angeles as he attended the birth of his second son, needs just one more goal for his country to match German superstar Gerd Muller's tally of 68 for his country, although he insists that has not even crossed his mind.

He said: "It would be great, but I haven't thought about it."

Bayern Munich announced earlier this week that 69-year-old Muller is receiving treatment for Alzheimer's disease, and Keane offered his best wishes to the player whose goals came in just 62 internationals for West Germany.

He said: "It's obviously very, very sad. He was an absolutely fantastic player to have that many goals for your country in the amount of games that he played is absolutely incredible. All I can do is wish him well."

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