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'Robbie is such a big personality, you still have to have him on the plane regardless'

Meanwhile, Damien Duff is hoping Aiden McGeady can rediscover his best form in France.

Duff and Keane after Ireland's exit from Euro 2012
Duff and Keane after Ireland's exit from Euro 2012
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

DAMIEN DUFF HAS backed Martin O’Neill’s decision to include captain Robbie Keane in Ireland’s 23-man squad for Euro 2016 despite concerns over his fitness.

Ireland’s leading goalscorer faces a race against time to be fit for the campaign opener against Sweden on 13 June after missing both warm-up games against Netherlands and Belarus.

Keane is nursing a calf problem he picked up in training last Saturday, an injury setback which threatened to rule him out of the tournament.

But Keane’s former team-mate insists there was never any doubt regarding his inclusion in O’Neill’s squad, which was named in Cork on Tuesday night.

“I don’t think so, no,” Duff said when asked whether Keane might have been left at home.

“10-day injury so he might scrape the Sweden game. He’s such a big personality around the place, you still have to have him on the plane regardless.

“I think he’s such a big character. He’s been there for…obviously he wants to be on the pitch, listen it sounds like it’s not that bad, a week, 10 days, it’s great to have him on board.

“I’m desperate for Robbie to get back on the pitch, as I’m sure he is. Probably his last tournament, probably his last few Irish games, I’d love to see him get a big goal and go out on a real high, because that’s what he deserves.”

The 35-year-old is one of just three recognised strikers named by O’Neill with Shane Long and Ipswich’s Daryl Murphy providing the other options.

Matilda Byrne, Kyle Mooney and Kyle Doyle with Damien Duff Duff was speaking at the launch of RTÉ's Euro 2016 coverage yesterday. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

With Keane likely to be unavailable for the opening game at the Stade de France and Murphy yet to open his account in a green jersey, there will be a lot of weight on the shoulders of Long.

The Southampton striker is coming off the back of a fine season in the Premier League, although Duff doesn’t necessarily agree with the assertion that he provides Ireland’s only potent attacking threat.

The former winger hopes Aiden McGeady can put a disappointing year at club level behind him and finally fulfil his undoubted potential on the international stage.

“I guess the one person I’d like to go see light it up, as well as Robbie, is [Aiden] McGeady,” he continued.

“I just think he’s got amazing talent, I don’t know what’s gone on with Sheffield Wednesday this year, for me he should have been lighting up the Championship.

“I don’t know if it’s injury problems, or didn’t fit with the manager or what, but I’d love to see him go and do well, his ability is a dying breed.

“I love him to bits. Even in training every day, I thought I could dribble until I saw this kid, and he’s just on another planet. I guess it’s about transforming it into games.

“He’s had injury problems, moving clubs…he’s the one player who gets people off their seats, and me being a winger I’d love to see him do well.

“I don’t think it’s a confidence problem, anytime I’ve been with him – and that’s a few years – he’s been a confident boy!”

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Ryan Bailey

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