IF IRELAND ARE to harbour any hopes of qualifying for France 2016 then they need to rediscover the home form that made Lansdowne Road a hostile venue for teams to visit, according to Roy Keane.
With four of their six remaining Group D games to come at home, Ireland’s Euro 2016 fate is likely to hinge on their capacity to pick up crucial points at the Dublin 4 venue.
However, since the stadium’s redevelopment in 2010, Ireland’s record at the ground has been far from adequate.
Granted, several of the fixtures have been friendlies but defeats to Russia, Germany and Sweden have proved detrimental to previous qualification campaigns.
With Group D rivals Germany, Poland and Scotland all yet to visit the Irish capital, Ireland’s destiny could still be in their own hands.
“It’s probably not been as hostile as the old Lansdowne Road as everyone knows,” the Ireland assistant manager said yesterday. “The record would suggest that. But we’ve just got to try and make sure we enjoy the Aviva and make it hostile for teams. That comes down to the players and supporters.
“The way the draw has panned out means we’ve had three tough away games but the Aviva is going to be massive. It’s important the players will step up to the mark.”
Ireland’s last outing of the year is on Tuesday evening when Jurgen Klinsmann’s USA visit for a friendly. As the wounds of Friday’s underwhelming defeat to Scotland begin to heal, Keane insists the players must not dwell on the disappointment.
“We’re not underestimating Friday’s defeat because it was a big build-up and meant a lot to our supporters but it was a set-back and that’s sport, that’s football.
“We just have to get on with it, there are no words of wisdom for the players, just roll your sleeves up and get going again.”
Defeat in Glasgow leaves Martin O’Neill’s side in fourth place in Group D, three points behind leaders Poland.
The next competitive fixture isn’t until next March and Keane admits it is difficult after the last game to have to wait so long to right the wrongs.
“The next qualifier seems a long way away but we knew that when we came into the job that when you have a disappointment you’ve along time to sit on it.”
Tuesday’s friendly gives O’Neill the opportunity to assess his options and take a look at some of the members of the squad not heavily involved in the qualification campaign so far.
Cyrus Christie and David McGoldrick could got make their debuts after being called into the squad last week and Keane believes the players need to go out and enjoy playing in the green shirt.
“You’d expect a number of changes from Friday to be made because there are players who are entitled to a game and a chance to show the manager what they’re about.
“What’s important for the players is to enjoy playing for Ireland and to relish the challenge. There are a number of new players in the squad and if they play on Tuesday night, yeah there is pressure but you need to enjoy it.”
USA, who suffered a narrow defeat to Colombia last week, arrive in Dublin without several of their distinguished names. Brad Guzan is one familiar face included, however, and Keane knows the goalkeeper well.
“Brad is a really good guy, I look forward to seeing him on Tuesday. I’ve had a chat with him about the game and it’s all about characters in the game and Brad is one them. There is not many about but Brad is a good goalkeeper, I’m grateful to be working with him.
“Brad has had to be patient the last few years because Tim [Howard] has been in good form but it’s an opportunity for him. He’s been done well in the last few games for Villa so he’s in decent form.”
Despite the visitors having a depleted squad, Keane is aware of the challenge Klinsmann’s side will pose.
“The US have always been pretty decent. The have an experienced manager, they play with high energy and I’m led to believe they’ll be playing a number of young players on Tuesday night .
“You look at some of the players they have and it’s little surprise they do well. They have some good players and experienced players like Brad who’ve played in the PL for a long time.”