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'We're in discussions with Robbie' - Keane could still have role with FAI

The 39-year-old is not part of Stephen Kenny’s new Ireland backroom staff.

THE FAI’S INTERIM CEO, Gary Owens, insists that Robbie Keane could still have a role in the association despite new Ireland manager Stephen Kenny appointing Keith Andrews and Damien Duff to his backroom team.

Keane was part of the Ireland staff under previous manager Mick McCarthy but has not been included in Kenny’s set-up.

robbie-keane Keane was part of the Ireland backroom staff under Mick McCarthy. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

But Owens told RTE Radio that there may still be a role for 39-year-old in the FAI.

“We’re in discussions with Robbie and his agent about what role he might play,” said Owens today.

“I wouldn’t rule him out. Robbie has been one of our best players ever. He would also have a lot to offer.”

Meanwhile, Owens has confirmed that the FAI are hopeful that Ireland’s Euro 2020 play-off against Slovakia will take place in November of this year.

Kenny succeeded McCarthy as Ireland manager yesterday and the FAI are hoping the new boss will have a chance to play friendly fixtures and Nations League games before the play-off meeting with Slovakia.

“I’d like the play-off as late as we can,” Owens told FAI TV. “We’ve been trying to get the play-off in the November series, rather than September or October. 

“That would give Stephen and his new team a chance to play some friendlies and Nations League matches in advance of the play-off.

“It’s going to be a very busy and exciting time. You’re going to have nine matches in the autumn, and then you’re going to have the World Cup [qualifiers] next year.

“Ideally I’d like the play-off in November if we can, which gives us a lot of time to prepare for that one match. Qualifying for the Euros would be huge because obviously there are four matches here [in Ireland]. It would be a huge opportunity for everyone in Ireland and especially the fans who have been there for years.”

gary-owens The FAI's Gary Owens. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Owens also explained how the association had reached a decision regarding Kenny’s appointment at this stage.

“It became a very difficult decision when the Euros were postponed until next year and it got even more complicated when the play-offs were deferred to the autumn,” said Owens. “As a result, we needed to act very quickly and decisively.

“We did that very professionally with both Stephen and Michael, and they have acted admirably. We needed to put Stephen in place now in advance of a very, very busy autumn period.

“The contracts themselves were complicated enough but when you throw on top of that the deferrals of the play-offs and the Euros and then the virus, it’s been a very strange and sometimes desperate time for football.

“The play-offs are now going to be in the middle of our Nations League campaign in the autumn, so it was absolutely the right decision to make now.

“We spoke to Mick about it, he completely understood that and both of them have been extremely professional in the transition.

“Mick has been a longstanding hero of mine, I played in the same position as he did. He’s been outstanding in his service both to Ireland and the FAI over many, many years. In the short time I’ve worked with him, I’ve found him extremely professional. In loads of ways, I’m sorry I won’t get to work with him in the future.

stephen-kenny-celebrates Kenny is now the Ireland manager. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“Now, it’s Stephen’s time and we need to get in behind him and his new team, he has a really good team ready to take on the challenges.

“They’re all our own, they’ve grown up in an Irish context. Stephen has been very successful in the League of Ireland. Both Damien and Keith have been really, really top professional footballers and Damien is over in Celtic now. 

“We think we’ve put a really good team together and then we’re going to have Jim Crawford at the U21s, so a very strong team at both levels.”

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