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Tuesday 12 December 2017

Robbie Keane: I'll stop playing for Ireland after the Euros

Republic of Ireland international and LA Galaxy player Robbie Keane with Laura Crossan, aged 9, from Monaghan, during a visit to Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin, Dublin
Republic of Ireland international and LA Galaxy player Robbie Keane with Laura Crossan, aged 9, from Monaghan, during a visit to Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin, Dublin

HE'S the last man standing. Richard Dunne is contemplating another major injury and Damian Duff's race is run for the season at least but Robbie Keane is still fighting the passage of time and winning.

But with a green shirt in mind, Keane is finally prepared to admit that, everything going well in qualification, a Euro 2016 finals appearance would seem to offer the perfect moment to step off the world stage, though perhaps not quit playing entirely.

"If we get there it would be great and to finish off there would be fantastic," he said. Was he calling time?

"Maybe. Possibly. Not guaranteed," he said. "There's certainly the chance that that would be the case."

Knowing Keane, he will never want to stop.

Read More: Big-hearted Robbie says he has no plans to hang up his boots

With a new deal under negotiation with LA Galaxy - "we're negotiating at the moment" - he shows no sign of slowing down and believes that he can continue for three or four more seasons.

"That's how I feel at the moment but that's depending on injuries and stuff like that. If I feel the way I feel now, I want to keep playing for as long as I can."

It's saying something that a 35-year-old professional footballer who has been the target for the less than tender attention of every defender he has ever played against in the most physically demanding league in the world is able to report that he feels better in this pre-season than he has done for years.

REVERSE

This time last year, when he was among us, Keane was in full reverse from the usual demands of fitness building, told to take it easy by the medics who repaired a lingering Achilles tendon issue and didn't want him kicking anything other than his heels up.

"I feel a lot better than I have done for a long time. Obviously last year with the operation it was six weeks of rehab but this off season, I had time to relax. I was back home and instead of having three weeks off doing nothing, I've kept myself busy."

Keane revealed that he cut it fine when it came to seeking a solution to an injury which restricted him over a number of years.

"I would have struggled if I didn't get that operation. Something would have happened because it was going on too long. Maybe it could have snapped and then that would have been a long time out. That's a six-month job."

"I managed to catch it in time," he said. "I can wake up and walk to the bathroom now. It doesn't take me a half hour to get going in training any more."

Keane is willing to try anything to keep playing, including yoga: "I do a little bit of yoga. I'm very, very flexible and maybe that's why I don't get too many muscle injuries.

In Crumlin Children's Hospital yesterday to deliver a $50,000 gift from LA Galaxy in advance of Saturdays friendly against Shamrock Rovers, Keane didn't look like the last man of a golden generation bracing himself against the inevitable.

He looked fresh and fit and as he has said many times in the past, has no interest in winding up his career as an international and club striker of renown.

regret

In fact, without naming names, he spoke about big players he knows well who have revealed their regret that they didn't follow his lead and now believe that they could have kept going for a few more seasons.

Duff and Dunne have certainly followed their heart and kept on going but both men are now dealing with pretty significant injuries, a ruptured calf muscle and knee ligament damage respectively.

The climb back to fitness might just be a step too far unless, perhaps, they fancy a run in the League of Ireland like another old pal, Stephen McPhail, who Keane will lock horns with at the Tallaght Stadium..

"I look at people over the years, people like Teddy Sheringham. He played with for a long time. Ryan Giggs played for a long time. As long as I look after myself and keep myself fit, I can see myself playing for that long.

"There are a few players - I won't mention names - that certainly regret that they stopped early. They definitely could have carried on for a few more years."

Keane reckons that the pressure of playing at the highest level takes a mental toll which is hard for some players to ignore.

"The mental side of the game for certain players can be tough. Players feel like they've played for a long time and think 'I've done enough now' but the reality is that when you're finished, you're finished for a long time.

"Speaking to (these) players and the experience I've got from that has kept me going. But even if I hadn't spoken to them I just love what I do. I can't imagine myself … I can't imagine the day when I have to hang up the boots."

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