Roy Keane is relishing the opportunity to bring his winning mentality to the Republic of Ireland’s bid to qualify for Euro 2016.
The 42-year-old former Ireland skipper admits he has enjoyed the four months that have passed since he accepted new manager Martin O’Neill’s invitation to become his assistant. However, having attended last week’s draw for the new qualifying campaign in Nice, which pitched the Republic into battle with Germany, Poland, Scotland, Georgia and Gibraltar, along with O’Neill, Keane is desperate for the pleasantries to end.
The pair led their side to a 3-0 home victory over Latvia and a goalless draw in Poland in November, but are now looking towards the games which really matter.
Keane said: “I am enjoying working with Martin and (goalkeeping coach) Seamus McDonagh and all the rest of the staff and the players. But we know, obviously, the bigger tests are to come. If we couldn’t have enjoyed the last few months, there’s something wrong. We understand it will get serious in the next few months, and even with these friendlies – people have been very polite and give us good backing, but we are here to get results.
“We are under no illusions about that, Martin and myself. We have been in the game long enough. It’s well and good getting pats on the back, but we are here to win football matches, and that will be tough. But we are ready for it.”
The draw process and the Group D fixture list which has now been drawn up have served to focus attention, and Keane admits he cannot wait for September and the opening game in Georgia to come around.
He said: “I enjoyed the trip with Martin last week and I am looking forward to the games, very tough games for different reasons. But I always said to the players and every time I have been involved with Ireland, you have got to believe you can go and win every football match, and hopefully that’s what we can bring to the group. It’s a very tough group, but one we’re looking forward to. Everybody keeps saying that we’re going to be up against some good teams, but we’re a good team so, no, roll on September, we’ll be ready.”
O’Neill, Keane and the bulk of their squad met up in Portmarnock on Sunday to begin preparations for tomorrow night’s friendly against Serbia at the Aviva Stadium.
Sunderland skipper John O’Shea, who suffered Capital One Cup final heartache at Wembley, and Crystal Palace defender Damien Delaney were both due to join up last night, while QPR goalkeeper Brian Murphy has been drafted in as cover for injured Newcastle counterpart Rob Elliot. Those members of the party who had already arrived trained at Malahide yesterday morning, among them Hull midfielder David Meyler following his brush with Newcastle manager Alan Pardew on Saturday.
However, Keane refused to be drawn into the row when asked about Pardew’s behaviour. He said: “I have no comment on it, I have no real interest. It’s none of my business. He’s (Meyler) fine. You have seen him training, he’s having a good season for Hull.”