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Monday 18 December 2017

Safety first for Keane

Captain wary of casualties in Budapest and says Irish won't be taking silly risks

A 13-GAME unbeaten run is a closely guarded jewel for Giovanni Trapattoni's Irish team, an undefeated streak that most countries -- take a bow Italy -- would love to boast of.

But Robbie Keane insists that the Republic's players will not take any unnecessary risks to protect that unbeaten run when it comes to playing Hungary here in Budapest tonight.

The squad for Euro 2012 has already seen two casualties, with Keith Fahey ruled out due to injury and Kevin Foley dropped by Trapattoni.

"It's very hard going into a game where you want to try your best, but as soon as you're on the pitch and there's a tackle there to be won, it's normal that you go and try to win it. But the last thing any of the players want is to get injured," says Keane.

"All of the hard work that we have done over the last few years, to miss out on a major finals like this would be terrible for anyone and I feel for players like (Gary) Cahill, who is missing out on his first major tournament with injury.

"We're hoping that tonight after the game we'll be speaking about the fact that everyone got through it okay, with a good win under our belt and looking forward to Sunday's game," added Keane.

The Irish captain is just one of the players enjoying the fact that Ireland are now preparing for a major finals instead of spending the summer playing other teams who were finals-bound.

As the squad trained in the dusty Ferenc Puskas Stadium -- the Nepstadion, or people's stadium as it was known in communist times -- last night, the sun was shining, spirits were high and there was hardly a cloud on the horizon.

Changed times, and a welcome change for Keane after spending a decade waiting to get to another finals.

"Ten years ago you think you'd be in every tournament but that's not the case," says Keane.

"Right now we couldn't be in better shape. Confidence in the squad is very high -- the squad is looking very strong.

"It has grown in every game under this manager and you can see a togetherness in the team," added Keane.

"The last couple of weeks have been very good. The week in Malahide was about getting the lads back together and getting ourselves through that.

"This week has been a case of concentrating fully on training, and getting ourselves sharp. You have seen the intensity and sharpness of every player. I feel fresh and fit and sharp, and looking at the other players, they certainly look the same."

Tonight is the last bout of friendly fire in the build-up to Euro 2012 and as the squads prepare to get to their final bases in Poland or Ukraine -- Ireland arrive at their HQ in Sopot tomorrow -- the talk from the other camps remains the same, that Ireland are seen as outsiders for the group.

"It's good for us that people think that," says Keane.

"The confidence that we have at this moment in time has been, from what I can see, part of the team.

"I mentioned before the Estonia game, the relaxed feeling we had before that game is very, very similar to now, to be honest.

"The intensity in training has been brilliant, but around the place people don't seem to be uptight or worried about next week, and I think that's always important as a player to have that calmness about you.

"Certainly over the years, the way I play better is when I keep calm. When I started getting myself worked up too much about things, you end up doing stupid things. So far the calmness around the place has been very good."

For Keane, that calmness means not getting tied up on multi-tasking in his roles as player, captain and leading scorer. He admits there is a weight on his shoulders to deliver goals for the team but, 14 years after his debut in Olomouc, just 400km from Budapest, it's just the same.

"There has been responsibility on my shoulders since I was 17 years of age. People look to me to score goals but now I am captain I have a big responsibility to try and help the team as much as I can, on and off the pitch," says Keane.

"You have to concentre on your own performance and try to lead by example with what you do on the pitch."

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