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Crooning Keane becomes a YouTube hit

IF the sign of a good captain is the ability to deflect attention away from his team before a big match, then Robbie Keane is Captain Fantastic.

But there is also a view, as Ireland face into tonight's crunch tie with Armenia, that it is inappropriate that a senior player indulges in a pub sing-song while his team mates are preparing for a do-or-die match

Whatever the rights or wrongs of the situation, Keane has become a YouTube sensation thanks to a blood-curdling performance of the cheesy Garth Brooks classic If Tomorrow Never Comes.

The Ireland captain has been ruled out of tonight's clash with an injury. But Keane (31) was on song when he belted out a rendition of the country classic just 48 hours before the game.

The striker was clearly comfortable in front of the home crowd at Gibney's in Malahide and tried to rouse the fans enthusiasm for the Ireland team.

"We're going to beat Armenia," he shouted mid-song. "Come on the boys in green."

The video of the LA Galaxy man's performance on stage on Sunday evening has already racked up 4,580 hits on YouTube.

Keane is no shrinking violet and there are dozens of earlier videos of him belting out Irish folk songs and country classics online.

But Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni (72) refused to take a hard line on the player who he said was free to do as he pleased once he knew he couldn't play.

"Robbie was out yesterday morning and he was free to go with his friends to the pub or whatever," he said.

The reaction is a marked departure from Trapattoni's earlier commentary on the Irish pub culture.

"I reminded the players how important it is to grow our personality or professionalism because of two or three situations when the players were drinking or in the pub," he said in August.

But fans called into Liveline on RTE radio to show their support for Keane.

"He plays football with his feet, not his mouth," said Karl Phillips.

The Aviva Stadium will be full tonight for the first time in years for a soccer match.

The FAI has made hundreds of cut-price tickets available for children accompanies by an adult which have been snapped up by fans. Armenia have taken the group by surprise after they beat Andorra, Slovakia and Macedonia in their last three qualifiers and scored 11 goals in the process.