IRELAND SKIPPER ROBBIE Keane is ‘raring to go’ against Macedonia tonight, despite having only played 22 minutes of competitive football since the beginning of February.
The West Ham striker will become Ireland’s most-capped captain when he leads out the Boys in Green at the Aviva Stadium this evening (ko 7.45pm).
The last time he finished a game he started was Ireland’s draw with Slovakia in October, but he told the Irish press pack he’s good to go.
“I’ve been training the last few weeks and training quite hard at West Ham,” said the Tallaght man, “I’m obviously lacking a little bit of match practice as I haven’t started a game for six weeks. We’ll see how it goes.
“At the end of the day, it’s up to the manager to see how well I do. I’m just looking forward to starting.”
And Keane shrugged off questions about the decision to pick him ahead of sharper strikers like Shane Long. “That’s the manager’s choice at the end of the day” he said at the final press event at their Malahide base. “It’s something you’d have to ask him.
“I’m back now, raring to go. Of course, the faith the manager has shown means a lot to me. Just because I’m the captain doesn’t mean I’ll play every game or have a right to play every game. You have to earn your spot. I’ve worked hard to get back and I’m delighted that the manager’s shown faith in me.”
And Keane expects a tough test from the visitors – a country which has caused us plenty of pain in the past.
“By no means is this going to be an easy game tomorrow. Macedonia are a team who have really progressed. I don’t remember too much of it [the game in 1997],” he said, “Obviously I remember the yellow jersey in training, but they’ve come a long way since them.
“We don’t want to keep looking back. Players like Pandev who plays for Inter Milan are obviously a threat. But we have to concentrate on ourselves rather than others and we need to get back to winning ways. Getting three points tomorrow will set us up nicely for the coming games.”
And if Ireland are to claim the three points that will keep their Euro 2012 hopes on track, the crowd at the redeveloped Lansdowne Road will be key. The skipper thinks the soccer contingent can take inspiration from the other tenants at Lansdowne Rd.
“I watched the rugby on TV last weekend and the atmosphere was electric. When you’re playing at home, it’s so important to get the crowd behind you. We need to get in their faces in the first ten minutes and really get the crowd behind us,” Keane added.