Thursday 27 October 2016

Sharp Keane looks to the future

Roy relishing finals in France but he still covets club return

Keane speaking to reporters at the Castleknock Hotel & Country Club in Dublin yesterday
Keane speaking to reporters at the Castleknock Hotel & Country Club in Dublin yesterday

Roy Keane was dressed sharp, razor sharp for his first Euro 2016 bandwagon press conference the morning after the night before.

Just a tiny bit dishevelled maybe but that's allowed after the prize he and his boss delivered at the Aviva.

The party and then the talk went on into wee small hours and with the first glimmers of light in the sky out in Castleknock, thoughts turned to the 23 names on golden tickets.

The world whizzes along now at a breakneck pace and where before, qualification was savoured and viewed from a thousand different angles before the act itself was consigned to memory, fading into the more urgent matters of the build-up, now we've already moved on.

Jack Charlton was fully preoccupied with the sometimes dangerous operation of Spey casting a heavy line into a likely pool with three very sharp hooks at the business end when Ireland first qualified for anything back in 1987 and it took journalists a few days to track him down.

Next question

Now everyone wants to ask the next question first.

So we sized up Keane and reached the conclusion that the suave, nicely trimmed man in front of us was now caste-iron management material again and maybe he even wanted it to look that way.

"I'm going to meet Martin in the next few weeks and have a look.

"I'm not sure about the contract situation, it was the last thing on our minds," he said, playing along when someone asked.

On another day, a question like that at the wrong moment would cause lava to flow.

"Martin knows I have an ambition to get back into it. I'm not really one for networking or applying for jobs but I'm enjoying my role here.

"I certainly want to stay on for the Euros and we'll play it by ear. I'm planning to meet the manager in the next few weeks to have a chat to see where he stands and all the other staff.

"I think Martin knows I have that ambition to get back in the ring but I'm also loving my role with Ireland. I've always said, I've been very, very lucky."

We have all emerged as winners from Martin O'Neill's work, Keane more than most and can accept the blessing with only a mild sense of sheepishness because we didn't really believe after Scotland won a point in the Aviva. There were good reasons for that and the team has improved in a couple of big leaps.


O'Neill's selection policy has also changed and Wes Hoolahan finally got a run of starts towards the end of the campaign. It is no coincidence that our best results and best football came in the same period.

But O'Neill's vision of what he wanted and what he believed he could get from the players in his squad was true and if the final chapter, two gritty and composed performances with pressure rattling the valves, brought almost everyone to a consensus view of his best team, so much the better.

O'Neill disappeared back to England at cock-crow leaving Keane behind to fill the machine with quotes. It would be no surprise if he left the stage free on purpose.

There is now a bond of friendship as well as professionalism between the two men and there is little doubt that O'Neill would be happy to see Keane "back in the ring".

For now, though, he's the Republic of Ireland No 2 and so we prodded and probed, heard a lot about enjoying the moment until we asked him out how hard it will be to strip O'Neill's traditionally huge squad down to fighting weight.

Nobody will enjoy that particular moment but as ever, Keane was all business before accepting that tough decision will be made.


"It might make it easier. We constantly work at international level with 28 or 29 players.

"They are not great coaching numbers when you are on the pitch but narrowing it down to 23 players will be hard.

"You always say to the ones that are not playing - Aiden McGeady, Darron Gibson, Alex) Pearce - that it is important they go and get games under their belts because it will be very difficult for the manager to pick lads who may not have kicked a ball for six months.

"I always think the players pick the team and the squad. If lads are out there performing there is a good chance they will be travelling. If not, it's difficult."

There will, of course, be a player to worry about, be sure of it.

Someone vital to the cause will end up in a heap somewhere in England and we will spend six months counting and reading medical journals about injuries.

And Keane will probably do more than one of these press conferences before he has enough of it and leaves us to get on with the hype.

Great, isn't it.

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