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'I’ll stop playing and stop scoring goals when I can hardly walk' - Keane ready for Poles

Ireland’s captain accepts that he may not start tomorrow but insists that he will lead by example whatever Martin O’Neill decides.

Keane flicks the ball over his head during this week's training camp.
Keane flicks the ball over his head during this week's training camp.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

THIS WEEK MARKS 17 years since Robbie Keane made his senior debut for Ireland.

The fresh-faced teenager came off the bench at half-time to replace Alan Maybury in a 2-1 friendly loss away to the Czech Republic in March 1998 but would have to wait until later that year to score his first goal for the Boys in Green.

He hasn’t looked back since and, 65 international goals on, the 34-year-old is as hungry as ever to line out for his country.

The problem is, having been dropped by Martin O’Neill in the 1-0 defeat to Scotland in Glasgow last October, the all-time leading goalscorer and captain isn’t a guaranteed starter for tomorrow’s clash with Poland at the Aviva Stadium.

Ever the professional, Keane explained at yesterday’s pre-match press conference that he will row in behind O’Neill regardless of what team he picks.

“It’s up the manager and it is his choice so if I’m called upon I will be ready,” Keane said. “Whether that is starting or from the bench. As captain, I have to set an example to other players and, like any player, you want to play in any game.

“Myself and the rest of the players are desperate to play and we are ready to go if we get the opportunity.”

Keane’s club season recently kicked off as LA Galaxy begin their MLS Cup defence and the last season’s MVP has already helped himself to three goals.

He has undoubtedly lost some pace and international matches occasionally bypass him, but the former Tottenham centre forward feels as sharp as ever and believes there are plenty more goals to come.

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think that,” he said. “Has the Galaxy helped me? I’m not too sure. I think I’ve helped myself in the way I keep myself and the hunger and desire.

“It’s okay having the ability but if you don’t want to play, be the best and score goals then you’re not going to achieve too much. I still have that since the first day and nothing has changed.

I’ll stop playing and stop scoring goals when literally I can hardly walk. That’s how much I love playing.”

Jonathan Walters celebrates his goal with Robbie Keane Partners in crime? Walters and Keane. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Keane was joined alongside Jon Walters on what appeared to be an ‘A’ team in a 3-5-2 formation for the training match during Saturday’s final session and although the starting XI has yet to be named, he was full of praise for the big Stoke City man.

“You know exactly what you are going to get from John,” said Keane. “He is a very honest player and makes it hard for defenders. He scores goal as well as we have seen with Stoke.

Aside from that, he’s a great person to have around. As one of our experiences playes, he is good leader and it is important to have players like that around the squad.

“For the younger players and those who haven’t played as many times as myself, it is great to see John’s attitude. He has been brilliant since day one. He is always a threat and people don’t like playing against him.

“He leads by example on the pitch and gives it everything he has got. He is a huge player for this squad.”

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Ben Blake

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