No bigger name than Roy Keane
Irish captain hails return of his ex-teammate to Irish set-up
AS SOMEONE who is fond of belting out a tune when called upon, Robbie Keane has probably taken a stab at Meat Loaf's old hit 'Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad' at some stage. And that's how Keane feels about the new team in charge of the national side here.
When he faced the media in Dublin before the qualifier against Kazakhstan last month, Keane name-checked the trio of Mick McCarthy, Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane.
All three were in contention to take over from Giovanni Trapattoni at that stage, and while O'Neill was the long-time favourite, the arrival of Roy Keane on the 'MON' ticket is a welcome surprise for the captain.
There is a lot of history between the two Keanes: Roy was the senior man in the squad and captain when Robbie came on the scene in 1998, they soldiered together through the 2002 World Cup campaign until the Corkman's part in that deal came asunder.
They were reunited Ireland-wise in 2004 when Brian Kerr tempted Roy back, and they were on the field for the last time in Lansdowne Road in 2005 when a Thierry Henry goal 'did' Ireland in a World Cup qualifier.
Now Keane and Keane are back on the same ticket, an unexpected bonus, says the current captain.
"When we were here the last time, three names were mentioned and I didn't think we'd have two of them here, to be honest with you," said Keane ahead of tonight's game against Latvia.
"I think I've been very vocal over the last few years about getting ex-players involved in the Irish set-up again and there's no bigger name than Roy Keane. It's been great so far.
"I haven't had the pleasure of working with Martin before, there has always been a lot of speculation over the years but for some reason it never happened. I didn't think I would get the opportunity again but thankfully I have and, as the gaffer says, the last few days have been very enjoyable, everyone has been on form and looking forward to a new chapter in Irish football.
"When I came into the squad first I was a young player coming through and Roy was a player that everyone looked up to and respected. For me coming in, he was always great.
"People tended to see the negative side when I came in but he was always great, me and Damien Duff, he would always speak to us.
"People forget this but Roy is a very funny guy when you actually sit down beside him, he's very charming, I haven't had any problems with him. You judge people on how they treat you, and he was always good to me.
"I think you have seen the response in the last few weeks, from the whole nation, it has been incredible. And that's the lift that everybody wanted and you don't get two bigger characters than Martin and Roy. Everyone is enthusiastic about this partnership and the players are too."
O'Neill will have many issues to deal with between now and the next competitive game in September but one matter will be Robbie's part in the new set-up.
For now, the striker is keen to remain involved but also accepts the reality of advancing age.
"I want to play as long as I can but I'm not daft. I am 33 years of age. It's the manager's choice, all I can do is keep playing well and keep scoring goals and if he sees that I can continue to do that then there is no problem," Keane says.
"But I don't have any problems with people making decisions or what have you.
"If anybody feels that I can help them now until the Euros and there's a situation coming around to the Euros where for some reason my legs are gone, then I'll pack it in.
"There's no question. I'm not stupid, you know? If I feel I can help the country or if the manager or whoever feels I can help this country because that's what I've done since I was 18 years of age.
"Every manager who comes in has different ideas and as a player you adapt to that. At the end of the day it's the manager's decision.
"As a player over the years you see how Martin's teams played, always full of energy and enthusiastic and if that's something that Martin asks us to do, the players will do it."