Hat-trick proves Robbie Keane still a lethal weapon

Robbie Keane carries off the match ball after scoring  a hat-trick in Ireland's 7-0 destruction of Gibraltar. Picture:PA
Robbie Keane carries off the match ball after scoring a hat-trick in Ireland's 7-0 destruction of Gibraltar. Picture:PA
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Roy Keane insists nobody should be surprised that Republic of Ireland ­striker Robbie Keane has established himself as one of world football’s most prolific international goalscorers.

Republic of Ireland 7-0 Gibraltar

Scorers: Republic of Ireland - Keane (6, 14, pen 18), McClean (46, 53), Jordan Perez (og 51), Hoolahan (56)

The 43-year-old former Manchester United captain was a fixture in the ­Ireland team when the then 17-year-old striker made his senior debut in March 1998 and set out on the road to ­establishing himself as the nation’s ­leading hitman.

On Saturday evening, the Los ­Angeles Galaxy striker marked his 136th ­appearance with the 63rd, 64th and 65th goals of his senior international career in a 12-minute hat-trick which laid the ­foundation for a 7-0 Euro 2016 qualifying demolition of Gibraltar.

The opposition may have been weak – and certainly significantly weaker than the wounded Germany team ­Ireland will face in Gelsenkirchen on Tuesday evening – but assistant manager Roy Keane was delighted to witness the frontman’s enduring potency.

Asked if he could have expected those feats when he first came across the teenage Dubliner, he said: “Yes, yes, of course. Robbie is a goalscorer, the stats will tell you that. There’s no ­surprises with Robbie.

“To be fair to him, he keeps doing it, he keeps doing the business and trains well, he’s a good professional. I’m not surprised by that at all.

“We know that anyway, we know what Robbie brings to the team. We know the hardest part of football is scoring goals and Robbie has done that for what, the last 12, 15 years for Ireland, so there were no surprises there with Robbie.”

No one within the Republic camp was allowing himself to be too ­carried away by a seven-goal drubbing of a side which was beaten within 18 first-half minutes, but there was a ­certain satisfaction in a victory which was every bit as comprehensive as the scoreline suggests.

However, those 90 minutes at the Aviva Stadium only ever represented the appetiser for Tuesday’s showdown with Group D favourites Germany, who find themselves in an unaccustomed third place as a result of their shock 2-0 defeat in Poland.

Ireland, of course, lost 6-1 at home and 3-0 away to the Germans under Giovanni Trapattoni during the last World Cup qualifying campaign and headed out of Dublin yesterday ­afternoon in optimistic mood, but preparing themselves for a backlash. Roy Keane, however, was not unduly surprised by Germany’s setback in Warsaw.

He said: “Poland are a decent team. We have said that from day one. It’s a tough group. We said Germany, obviously, were probably favourites, but the Poles are very good, big and strong, they have got [Robert] Lewandowski –they’re a good team.

“We’ll have a chance to watch that later on Sunday and whatever the result was over there, I suppose it was going to be a tough game anyway for us.

“We just know that it will be a different animal on Tuesday and we have to get ready for it.”

Manager Martin O’Neill did not ­involve Glenn Whelan, Stephen Quinn, Jon Walters or Shane Long against ­Gibraltar, all of whom played some part in Georgia last month, as he used the depth of his squad, and he now faces a series of decisions ahead of a much sterner test.

Even Robbie Keane admits he is not necessarily guaranteed a place in the starting line-up.

He said: “Listen, everyone wants to play, there’s no question, but the ­manager has to pick what’s right for the team. If it’s right for the team, regardless of if I’m playing or not, I don’t really care. As long as we get a result, I couldn’t care less. It’s about the team. I think as you get older you understand that and you appreciate that more, it’s about the team.

“When you’re young and you’re hungry, you’re more selfish. As you get older, you appreciate the team – I’m not saying I didn’t before.”

One man who will have no part to play in Germany is Derby defender Richard Keogh, who has returned to his club with a hamstring injury, while Ipswich striker Daryl Murphy is being monitored after complaining of discomfort in his Achilles tendon.

Meanwhile, Roy Keane was happy to be talking about football once again after last week’s release of his updated autobiography.

He said: “You move on now. That’s history, now we’ll get ready for the game on Tuesday.”