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Dublin: -2°C Sunday 11 April 2021

'It's England so you want to turn them over but there's more to it than bragging rights'

Roy Keane admits there are places up for grabs this Sunday.

Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

WHEN ENGLAND VISIT Dublin this weekend, there’s more than just bragging rights on the line with Roy Keane admitting Sunday’s game offers players a chance to put themselves forward for selection for the serious business that lies ahead.

For the Irish management team, it’s not a case of hoping it’s all right on the night ahead of the crunch Euro 2016 Qualifier against Scotland.

Thursday’s behind closed doors friendly against Northern Ireland was a ‘worthwhile exercise’ according to Keane and this weekend represents another chance for he and Martin O’Neill to cast their eye over the panel.

That outing at the Aviva Stadium finished goalless with all but two of the 27-man squad playing 45 minutes. Jon Walters and Wes Hoolahan have since joined up with the party but it remains to be seen what part they’ll play against Roy Hodgson’s side.

“It was good, there were no problems and it was a pretty decent game,” Keane said on Friday.

“There was a good tempo, good attitude from both teams and we were happy with the clean sheet.”

Robbie Brady Ireland have trained at the Aviva Stadium in order to get used to the ground Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

The focus has quickly turned to the first official fixture of this crucial end-of-season schedule for the Boys in Green with Friday’s training session cancelled in order to facilitate a rest and recovery period.

“We’ll see how the next day or two go and see how players respond to yesterday,” Keane continued. “Some lads needed minutes under their belt and the manager has said it’s a very important game but the priority is the following weekend and we need to take stock.

“It’s a game we’re looking forward to and it’s a really good game for us before the Scotland match. There will be an edge to it for a friendly and the players know there are places up for grabs and there’s a lot to play for on Sunday.”

It will be the first time England have visited Dublin since that infamous night twenty years ago when trouble in the stands forced the referee to abandon the game before half-time.

Keane admits it’s a game with plenty of historical and political context but that’s all in the past and it’s now about looking forward with a view to preparing for Saturday week’s meeting with the Scots.

“They’ve a lot of good players and so have we. The priority is about getting the team right, it will be a good atmosphere and you can tell everyone is looking forward to it.

Martin O'Neill Martin O'Neill still has decisions to make over his best XI ahead of the next two games Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“In terms of what’s happened twenty years ago, you have to look forward and it’s England so you obviously want to turn them over.”

Ireland will train on Saturday morning at their base in Malahide as the squad’s mode switches from recovery to preparation again. No doubt it’s been a congested week for the players and management but it’s all designed with one goal in mind – to win two from two.

“There will be an edge. I don’t think we could have picked a better game before Scotland, it will be a big, big test for our players and the feeling we get from the group, they’re looking forward to it.”

Kick-off at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday is 1pm.

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Ryan Bailey

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