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Keane: Euro 2016 would be a fantastic way to finish off my Ireland career

The country’s all-time top goalscorer has been doing yoga to help him maintain his flexibility and says he is feeling better than ever.

Robbie Keane meets Tommy Kelly-Shaw Keane meets Tommy Kelly-Shaw during his visit to Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin this week as Dublin CMRF Crumlin ambassador. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

AFTER A YEAR which saw him become the first European to be named MLS Most Valuable Player, it is no wonder that Robbie Keane feels like there is plenty of life in the old dog yet.

The Ireland captain enjoyed his most successful season since opting to leave the Premier League for the States in 2011 — clocking up 19 goals and 14 assists as to lead LA Galaxy to their third MLS Cup in four years.

With a month to go until the new campaign, Bruce Arena’s men are in Dublin on a pre-season tour this week. They trained at Gannon Park last weekend then made the trip to Stockholm for a friendly with Hammerby on Monday, which they lost 2-1 despite Keane scoring from the penalty spot.

On Saturday, Keane will skipper the Californians against Shamrock Rovers in his native Tallaght.

Clearly happy with life in the US, Keane has begun discussions with the club to stay beyond next season, when his current deal expires. This time last year, the striker was in the middle of rehab from double Achilles surgery. However, it proved a success and he believes he is in a good place fitness-wise.

“I feel a lot better than I have done for a long time,” Keane said on a visit to Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, yesterday. “Last year I had the operations and it was six weeks of rehab. With this off-season I had time to relax when I was back home.

“If I didn’t get that, something would probably have happened. It was going on too long and could have snapped.

That would have been a long time out — a six month job and some players struggle to get back. So I got it at the right time.

“It’s huge that I can wake up and walk to the bathroom and it doesn’t take me half an hour to get going in training anymore. I can go out start running straight away so it has made a huge difference.”

Ireland’s all-time top goalscorer, who turns 35 in July, has always looked after himself during his 18 years as a professional footballer and admits taking up yoga as one measure to help prolong his career.

Most players are unable to maintain the physical condition needed to continue into their late 30s but Keane is optimistic that he has got another four or five years in him.

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“That’s just how I feel at the moment but it is dependent on injuries,” he says. “If I feel the way I feel now, of course I want to play as long as I can.

I look at people like Teddy Sheringham and Ryan Giggs, who both played for a long time. As long as I look after myself and keep myself fit.

That’s why it is important in the off-season that you look after yourself physically and keep yourself ticking over. I’ve always done that anyway.

“I do a little bit of yoga,” he added. “It’s certainly good for stretching but I would be very flexible anyway. The physios will tell you that. That is the reason why I don’t really get too many muscle injuries. I stretch quite a lot.

“For me it’s just about the hunger to want to play and the drive to do well, score goals and compete at the highest level. That more than anything motives me.”

While the likes of Sheringham and Giggs were still playing when they hit 40, there have been others who decided to end their careers prematurely.

“I won’t mention their names but there are a few players that certainly regretted stopping early when they definitely could have carried on for a few more years. The mental side of the game can also be tough for certain players. They may have played for a long time and feel like they have done enough.

“The reality is you’re finished a long time. Certainly speaking to players who have experienced that has kept me going. Even if I didn’t speak to them players, I just love what I do and I can’t imagine myself regretting that day that I have to hang up the boots.”

Ireland continue their hunt for a place at the Euro 2016 when they host Poland at the Aviva Stadium on 29 March. Despite being dropped in the defeat to Scotland in November, Keane, currently on 138 caps, is still very much part of Martin O’Neill’s plans.

However, if they were to qualify for the finals in France next year, it could well prove to be his last hurrah.

“Euro 2012 is probably something you want to forget about so I don’t think about it too much but I just want to do the best I can for the country,” he said. “If that is getting to another Euros well great because the whole country wants that and that is why we play the game. To play in these tournaments. You don’t get any bigger than the World Cup and the Euros.

“If we get there it would be great and for me to finish off on that would be fantastic.”

Robbie Keane is an ambassador for CMRF Crumlin, the fundraising arm of Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin and was present alongside his LA Galaxy teammates at the handover of a cheque to the value of $50,000 from LA Galaxy and their sponsors Herbalife to CMRF Crumlin. Robbie is also an ambassador for CMRF Crumlin’s current campaign ‘Give It Up for Crumlin’. For more see www.giveitup.ie

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Ben Blake

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