IRELAND ASSISTANT MANAGER Roy Keane says his first couple of months in the job have been a pleasant experience — but added that the real work starts now.
The former international captain was brought in under Martin O’Neill in November but hasn’t had to deal with any fixtures since playing Latvia and Poland soon after taking over.
Last week saw the pair travel to Nice as Ireland’s Group D opponents for the Euro 2016 qualifiers (Germany, Scotland, Poland, Georgia and Gibraltar) were unveiled and, after last night’s FAI Awards ceremony, the squad trained at Malahide this morning ahead of a friendly meeting with Serbia on Wednesday.
“So far so good,” Keane told the media. “I said from Day One that it was an opportunity that I couldn’t turn down. I’m enjoying working with Martin and Seamus (McDonagh) and all the rest of the staff and the players.
“We know the bigger tests are to come. If you couldn’t have enjoyed the last few months there is something wrong but we understand it will get serious in the next few months with these friendlies.
“People have been obviously very polite and giving us good backing but we’re here to get results and are under no illusions of that.
Martin and myself have been in the game long enough and it’s well and good getting pats on the back but we’re here to win football matches. That will be tough but we’re ready for it.”
18 outfield players and two goalkeepers took part in today’s session with John O’Shea, Damien Delaney, Ciaran Clark and Norwich pair Wes Hoolahan and Anthony Pilkington (who watched on from the dugout) given the day off as they all played yesterday.
Ipswich Town’s Brian Murphy is also due to link up with the squad this evening after replacing the injured Rob Elliot.
One player who did train is Hull City midfielder David Meyler, who was involved in a pitchside altercation with Newcastle manager Alan Pardew yesterday.
When pressed on the incident, Keane said: “No comment on it. I’ve no real interest and it’s none of my business.
“He (Meyler) is fine, you’ve seen him training. He’s having a good season for Hull and it’s good to have him involved. Obviously I know Meyler from my days at Sunderland. I took him over from Cork City and Meyler is a good lad.
“It’s nice to have him back involved in the squad. There’s an opportunity there for him and what’s good for Meyler is that he’s back in the Hull team playing regularly and that will always give you a chance at international level.”
Source: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer
With captain Robbie Keane, who last night won FAI International Senior Player of the Year, Richard Dunne, Kevin Doyle and Andy Reid all missing, Keane believes it will give other squad members a chance to stake a claim for places in the team.
“It’s an opportunity for a lot of the players,” he said. “What was really good from the weekend was that a lot of the players played full games for their clubs. We want them to play well and it’s just as important that they’re playing games.
“Richard Keogh has come into the squad, there’s Daryl Murphy, Darren Randolph. Every time you train there’s an opportunity to impress the manager.
Reidy was doing really well and is having a big influence at (Nottingham) Forest. I’ve seen him a few times this year and he has been outstanding.
“So he’s a loss but that’s the name of the game. Players will get injured particularly at this stage of the season.
“Today was always going to be light because a lot of the players were playing Saturday and Sunday but it’s still nice to get to know them a little bit on the training pitch and in and around the hotel.
“We’ll be ready for Wednesday. That’s why we took the job, to enjoy these occasions. We will have learned a lot more about the players after Wednesday’s game because they’re a decent team Serbia.”