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No-frills Roy wants a moment of quality from Ireland


 Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane

Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane


Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane

There's no messing with Roy Keane when he's in this kind of humour. Nobody displays their state of well-being more clearly than he does and reading the signs right now, the barometer is low.

Does it matter in the context of a game, the importance of which cannot be overestimated? Probably not. The inner dynamics of the Ireland senior squad do not rely on one man to set the tone.

But he's definitely brooding at the moment if not blasting. Then again, he was just 48 hours after a scary motorway shunt and he is human after all.

For Keane, this week has been all about business and he followed the same track in the run-up to England. No frills, straight answers and delivered as if he's quoting from the book of things you say before a big football match.

Keane, like Martin O'Neill, knows that their time in control of this team could be defined by results against Scotland. If that proves to be the case, it will be a short and not so sweet experience.

Victory means that we roll onto the next game which in turn becomes the defining moment. A win against Scotland brings belief and a reason for optimism. From now on, Ireland cannot afford any slip-ups.

"Going into this it's probably the biggest game we've had, but I think the atmosphere will take care of itself," said Keane. "The players are well aware, they're playing week-in, week-out in the Premiership and there's players who've played over a hundred times for Ireland - I think they understand all that.

"I appreciate that we need to go and perform so that the fans get behind them. We're always talking about goals but that can be from a tackle, a clearance, desire from the players, getting balls into the box. I think all that will fall into place.

"We'll have all that - it's just one or two of the players producing that bit of quality that will win the game. Just like Scotland produced in the last game."

The debate over Robbie Keane is never far away when O'Neill is reaching the moment when he must write names on a team sheet. This time, Keane is struggling.

"Everything is a balancing act. You need attack-minded players and lads who can put the ball in the back of the net. But we want to be defensively solid.

"Robbie's trained today and Robbie's a top professional player and he'll get on with the job and if he starts I'm sure he won't let us down like he never has. From a physical point of view, he's trying to get up to match speed.

"He's only played one 90 minutes in the last couple of months which is not ideal, but as I've said, for every international match, there is a situation with players who are lacking match-time and that would be the problem for Robbie.

"He's trained and obviously, he's trained well as you'd expect. He's an experienced player and we'd have to gauge him.

"He'd be pretty honest about where he is physically and whether he can start the game or not. We'll look at that over the next few hours. He's trained fine and he's had to deal with a lot but as you know with Robbie, it doesn't seem to affect him when he gets out on that pitch."

Keane accepts that the return of Marc Wilson, James McCarthy and Glenn Whelan offers a better spread of options but refused to blame injuries and absentees for defeat in Parkhead late last year.

"I think the nature of international football is that you'll always go into a game missing some players, and you have to get on with the job.

"We've lost Harry Arter and we weren't expecting that, but we've got some lads back to fitness and it's just getting the balance right and getting the team selection right.

"You can't make excuses for the last game that players weren't available, that's just the nature of the game. That's the disadvantage of international football, you can turn up and 4/5/6 lads might be missing but we can't make any excuses for previous matches.

"The mindset always has to be the next game, can we put the few mistakes we made in Scotland right. It'll be a tight game but can we produce that bit of quality?"

Euro 2016: Republic of Ireland v Scotland, Saturday KO 5pm, Live RTE2/Sky Sports 1