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Saturday 10 December 2016

Robbie: I just knew I'd make it back in time

Ireland captain Keane admits that there was a concern about him being fit for the tournament overall. Picture Credit: David Maher/Sportsfile
Ireland captain Keane admits that there was a concern about him being fit for the tournament overall. Picture Credit: David Maher/Sportsfile

The cartwheels which he showed off with glee when he scored those goals early in his career did not suggest that Robbie Keane was a footballer who was burdened with doubt.

Now, the Ireland captain admits that there was a concern about him being fit, not just for the opening game of Euro 2016 against Sweden on Monday but the tournament overall.

His age (35), the air miles absorbed by his body with all of those trans-Atlantic jaunts, and that recent injury meant that Keane stood the risk of missing out.

So it was good for all concerned to see the Ireland captain take a full part in Ireland's open training session at a sun-baked Versailles yesterday, where the local kids who were allowed in to see the session cheered Keane's name with more enthusiasm than anyone else in the Ireland camp.

Dreaming

Though it's doubtful that kids in the (very wealthy) area of Versailles have been dreaming for the last four years of getting Keiren Westwood's autograph, so Keane's still a big name here.

And a return to full training is, says Keane, a sign that he's available to face the Swedes on Monday.

"I am back a lot quicker than expected, which I knew anyway myself, if I'm being honest.

"I've usually been a quick healer so it's been very, very positive," says Keane.

"Once you're training that gives you a clear indication that you are ready for the game on Monday."

But the doubt was there for Keane. "Of course when it first happened there was doubt. That's natural, but as soon as he said 'three weeks' I knew I would be back before that," Keane explains.

"If they had said six weeks it obviously would have been a problem. There certainly was a relief when he said three weeks. It certainly felt like it could have been worse than that. Thankfully it wasn't."

Keane started every game for Ireland at Euro 2012 and the 2002 World Cup but how much football, if any, that he gets to play, is in doubt but the aim overall remains the same. "To do well, Simple as that, get through to the next stage," says Keane when asked of his ambitions for the summer.

Meanwhile, defender Shane Duffy, who is at the other stage of his international career, is aiming to make his mark in his first major finals.

"You grow up watching your heroes take part in these tournaments, so it is going to be surreal being part of it. I'll try and take it all in and if I get the chance hopefully I will play well," says Duffy.

"I'm delighted, it has taken a while to sink in so I'm really looking forward to the tournament now. It was a surprise to get the call, a couple of months ago I was well away from the squad, so it is a real honour to get the call.

"I think I did alright in the friendly games that we played, and I also got lucky with a couple of injuries, so I'm delighted to be involved."

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