Last Wednesday night, the 31st of August will go down as a sad but memorable day in Irish football history. The Republic of Ireland played Oman in a friendly and striker Robbie Keane had decided that this game would be his last in the green shirt of his country. Robbie,s career spanned 18 years in which time he bagged 68 goals for his country. The striker appeared in the 2002 World Cup and the 2012 and 2016 European Championships for Ireland, appearances that will surely live in his memory forever.
No war was lost, nobody died, but last Wednesday a local lad from Dublin hung up his international boots. Robbie will not only be missed for his goal scoring ability but also his passion as captain that gelled together this Irish squad. Robbie will continue to play club football for his side LA Galaxy in America but his international days are over.
Robbie leaves behind an international career which saw him score 68 goals in 146 games. In my opinion this record will never be equalled by any other Irishman no matter how long I live. Robbie made his debut in March 1998 when he came on as a substitute against the Czech Republic.
Robbie was part of the Republic of Ireland under 18 squad that won the 1998 UEFA European Championships who at the time were managed by future senior team manager Brian Kerr. Keane broke into the senior international team when he made the breakthrough into the Wolverhampton Wanderers side and over the years he also played for Coventry City, Inter Milan, Leeds United, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Glasgow Celtic, West Ham United, Aston Villa and his current club LA Galaxy.
There is no doubt that the boy from Crumlin on the south side of Dublin has done very well for himself at club level as well. Robbie’s goal scoring in the Premier League was incredible, he bagged 126 goals for himself. Whilst with Tottenham Hotspur he won the League Cup in 2008, it is an awful shame he did not manage to win more honours. On the international stage, Robbie broke Niall Quinn,s Ireland goal scoring record back in 2004 and set a healthy new one with his 68th goal last Wednesday against Oman. Although Robbie is calling it a day at international level, he will continue to play in the US for LA Galaxy in the MLS league and surely more honours will come there.
Off the field Robbie is a great family man and with his wife Claudine he will be badly missed around the Irish set up. He has had a fantastic time playing for his country and always made himself available for games. As we know only to well in this country a lot of players over the years took a dive so as to protect themselves for their clubs. Not Robbie, he was always prepared to come home and pull on the green shirt of Ireland, a shirt he admitted the other day that sat well on his shoulders. I have been very lucky to meet Robbie on a couple of occasions and have to say he has always willingly stopped to have a chat. He may be 36 now but he still has the enthusiasm he had when he made his debut all those years ago.
Who is to say what the future holds for Robbie Keane but it would not be a surprise to me if we saw him at some stage return to coach for the Football Association of Ireland once his time in LA is over. All we can do for now, is thank Robbie Keane for every memory he has given the Irish supporters and wish him well in his international retirement. Keano, Keano, Keano.