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Dublin: 4°C Wednesday 14 April 2021

Robbie Keane's international career ends in fitting fashion as Ireland see off Oman

The Tallaght native was making his final appearance in a green jersey this evening.

Robbie Keane celebrates scoring his 68th international goal.
Robbie Keane celebrates scoring his 68th international goal.
Image: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Ireland 4

Oman 0

WHEN PELE, BONO, Steven Gerrard and Mary Black take time to pay tribute to an Irish footballer, you know the player in question is something out of the ordinary.

The glowing half-time big-screen tributes from celebrities were apt on a night that felt like a Robbie Keane testimonial in all but name in what was an emotional, nostalgia-tinged evening in Dublin.

Irish players seemingly went out of their way on occasion to ensure the Tallaght native scored, and the Dubliner eventually did get his 68th international goal amid a 4-0 victory over Oman, who were at times equally as obliging as Keane’s teammates with some of their lacklustre defending.

In what would prove a considerable anomaly in this almost comically one-sided affair, Ireland were given a scare early on. Keiren Westwood was forced into a rare save, as a corner found Al Muqbali at the far post, and the Sheffield Wednesday stopper — making just his third Ireland appearance under Martin O’Neill — had to tip the ball away from goal.

However, the tide quickly turned, and on seven minutes, Robbie Brady’s curling free kick on the edge of the area put Ireland in front and got the party started. The Norwich man, who was deployed at left-back rather than the midfield role he played in the latter half of the Euros, once again emphasised his attacking talents in front of an Aviva crowd of 27,300 — a decent showing considering just over 14,000 showed up for the last meeting between the sides in Dublin in 2014.

Keane, with the match feeling almost secondary to his send-off, had his first decent chance of 14 minutes. The ball broke to the Ireland centre forward deep inside the area, but a last-ditch block denied him the chance to equal German legend Gerd Muller’s record of 68 international goals.

Another opportunity followed shortly thereafter for the Tallaght native. Jon Walters’ volley fell towards a lurking Keane, but Oman goalkeeper Faiz Al Rushaidi got to the ball just ahead of the Ireland striker.

Walters and Shane Long were both causing problems, as the visitors frequently struggled to deal with the pace and intelligent movement of the Irish attack, with their incisive runs down the channels often eluding their markers.

There was a clamour of excitement in the stadium every time the ball came near Keane, and the 36-year-old striker almost gave the home crowd what they wanted on 28 minutes. A Glenn Whelan through ball was missed by Oman’s last man, Bait Mabrook, and an onrushing Keane chipped the goalkeeper only to see the ball hit the roof of the net.

The feeling that it was going to be a rare off night in of goal for the Irish footballing legend didn’t last long, however.

On the half-hour mark, Jon Walters’ hooked through ball found Keane in space, and the Irish star lofted the ball over his marker Mabrook’s head before powerfully finishing into the corner of the net for what was his 68th goal at international level.

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Republic of Ireland v Oman - International Friendly - Aviva Stadium Ireland's Jon Walters was named man of the match. Source: Niall Carson

Walters then got in on the scoring act after 34 minutes. Robbie Brady’s inch-perfect cross from the left found the Stoke man free in the box, and he made no mistake with a glancing header into the corner of the net to put the Irish 3-0 ahead.

Ireland’s skipper Keane remained on the field after the break, but following the liveliness of the first half, the second began in far more prosaic fashion.

James McClean’s sliced shot from just outside the box was the best attempt the hosts could conjure in the opening 10 minutes after the break.

In the 57th minute, Keane left the field one final time to a rousing reception, as the Aviva Stadium paid fitting tribute to Ireland’s record goalscorer, with Wes Hoolahan coming on in his place.

Man-of-the-match Walters then got his second and Ireland’s fourth just after the hour mark. The 32-year-old forward timed his run to perfection, latching on to Harry Arter’s exquisite through ball, before rounding the goalkeeper and slotting the ball home.

From there, the intensity dipped further. Despite some nice touches by substitutes Hoolahan and O’Dowda, the Irish team noticeably took their foot off the pedal, perhaps with Monday’s crucial World Cup qualifier against Serbia in mind.

As is invariably the case when a raft of substitutions are made, the game descended into walking pace at times, with the Boys in Green dominating possession but creating few chances against an Oman side who, for all their faults, at least always had plenty of numbers behind the ball.

The match briefly came to life again on 76 minutes, as a defensive mix-up inside the box allowed James McClean to lay the ball off to Jeff Hendrick, whose shot was tipped over by Rushaidi.

Late on, Hoolahan’s deflected effort from the edge of the area again made the goalkeeper work, but Martin O’Neill’s side had to be content with a 4-0 win, as they ended their warm-up for Serbia in satisfactory fashion.

Really though, the evening belonged to Keane, and a sizeable majority of those attending stuck around after the final whistle to bid their departing captain one last fond farewell.

Ireland team: Westwood (Randolph 45), Christie, Wilson, Clark, Brady (Ward 45), Quinn (O’Dowda 65), Whelan (Hendrick 45), Arter, Long (McClean 45), Keane (Hoolahan 57), Walters.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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