ROBBIE KEANE WAS inducted into the FAI Hall of Fame earlier tonight as part of Irish football’s annual awards night.
The former captain and record goalscorer retired from international duty last August after 18 years of service to the senior side and 68 goals in 146 appearances.
Inevitably, there were a litany of tributes paid to the 36-year-old by the likes of Paul McGrath, Damien Duff and Brian Kerr.
McGrath recalled the first time he came up against a teenaged Keane during a game against Wolves.
“I remember this little Irish kid came out and his shirt was a little bit too big for him. I kept thinking, ‘Well this is going to be an easy day’. As soon as the game started, he was running at me – twisting and turning. He was just unbelievable”.
“I was Under-17 at Blackburn and we went for a pre-season friendly down to Wolves”, Duff remembered.
“I’d never heard of Robbie, to be fair, and after 10 minutes I was blown away. I was like, ‘Who’s this kid?’ and I was asking about him. He was playing like a senior pro. I think we lost 3-1 and he scored two goals. That was the first time I came across him and knew he was a proper talent”.
Brian Kerr, who coached Keane at both underage and senior level with the Republic of Ireland, was effusive in his praise and the attacker’s likes will never be seen again.
“Robbie was the epitome of a street footballer and he played with that style from the first time I saw him. He had a small frame but was very tough. It was the speed of thought and speed of action that made him such a great player.
He is our greatest ever goalscorer. 68 goals. 146 caps. I don’t think that will ever be bettered”.
Other names to pay tribute to Keane on Sunday night included former team-mates Steven Gerrard, Michael Carrick and Dimitar Berbatov, who all sent video messages.
Speaking to Joanne Cantwell in the RTE studios in Donnybrook, Keane – who left Major League Soccer side LA Galaxy last year – spoke about his future, discussing how he has had offers but will take his time before deciding on his next move.
“I’ll wait for the summer and see what happens but I fully intend to play on for another year or so”.