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Dublin: 13°C Tuesday 22 September 2020

'It was suggested to me by Robbie. At first, I thought, ‘you cheeky b******s’'

The Boys in Green’s all-time record goalscorer was confirmed today as part of Mick McCarthy’s coaching set-up.

Newly appointed Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy with his assistant Terry Connor and coach Robbie Keane.
Newly appointed Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy with his assistant Terry Connor and coach Robbie Keane.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

- Paul Fennessy reports from the Aviva Stadium

NEW IRELAND BOSS Mick McCarthy spoke about his decision to bring on board former player Robbie Keane as a coach during the manager’s introductory press conference in Dublin today.

The former Tottenham and Leeds star will be part of a coaching team that will also include Terry Connor — McCarthy’s assistant since 2006, with the pair having worked together previously at Wolves and Ipswich.

Stephen Kenny, who won four league titles in five years with Dundalk and helped the Lilywhites reach the Europa League group stages amid a memorable 2016 campaign, comes on board as U21 manager before replacing McCarthy in the senior role after Euro 2020.

McCarthy, meanwhile, revealed that it was Ireland’s record goalscorer who asked him to be part of the coaching set-up.

“It was suggested to me by Robbie. At first, I thought, ‘you cheeky bollocks,’ to be quite honest,” the 59-year-old joked.

“He is cheeky, he played cheekily. I gave him his debut [for Ireland]. There’s more to him [than footballing talent], he’s serious about his football. He loves his football. Sometimes, you used to clap him in training, some of the things he did. [He was] such a talent. He’s got his head screwed on in terms of wanting to be a coach, a manager in his own right. If you’re talking about succession, whatever happens to me in two years’ time, he should be part of that succession.”

McCarthy added: “[Robbie] asked me if I would consider him helping out in some way, a coaching role, management role, just to be part and work with me. I gave it some thought, and I have to say… I’m coming up 60, and TC is 56… I kind of like the idea of a young coach, an assistant who’s got bright ideas.

He’s the most capped, top goalscorer. I think he will have a real affinity with the younger players. All these guys coming through, he’s their hero. I think that’s a real benefit for me. And he’ll be driving up and down the country looking at players and having his backside in the car, getting sick of watching teams and reporting to me and TC.

In addition, when asked about recent comments made by former player Darren O’Dea that Keane, who scored 68 times in 146 appearances for Ireland, would struggle to find the net if he were a current player due to the lack of creativity in the national side, McCarthy responded: “Would Darren put money on Robbie not scoring in this team? I’d put money on that he would.”

On the Boys in Green’s goalscoring woes, the new manager added: “What can I promise you? ‘We’ll get balls in the box. We’ll get runners from midfield.’ All that stuff you use to create goals. I know about doing it, I know how to do it, [it's about] doing it on the pitch.”

One of McCarthy’s first tasks as the new manager will be to attend the Euro 2020 draw in Dublin on Sunday, and with Ireland going into it as third seeds due to a poor Nations League campaign, an unfavourable grouping could swiftly quell the inevitable surge of optimism that a new manager’s arrival invariably creates. However, the Barnsley native suggested he would be remaining optimistic regardless of the outcome of next weekend’s event. 

“Our World Cup [group in 2002], that was supposedly the ‘Group of Death’ and we got through it. I’ll be turning up full of excitement that I’m now the manager and I’ll be taking the team for that tournament. I’ll have my fingers and toes crossing hoping that we get a really favourable draw for that tournament — whatever that is, I don’t know.”

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Paul Fennessy

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