Keane steals the show as men from Faroe Islands frozen out
Not too much here to encourage those romantics who still believe Republic can qualify for World Cup
It was an evening of Brazilian weather in Dublin 4, with a balmy breeze wafting in from the Copacabana – formerly Sandymount Strand – - and doing its best to convince us that Ireland could still join the party in Rio next year.
The Aviva Stadium PA people might have been forgiven for adding a bit of Samba, or The Girl from Ipanema, to the pre-match music. But instead we had to settle for a seasonal classic from nearer home: Bagatelle’s old hit Summer in Dublin.
Even against the Faroe Islands, the choice didn’t inspire confidence. Home fans old enough to remember Bagatelle, not to mention the 0-0 draw with Liechtenstein (helpfully recalled in the match programme), can never rule out the possibility of an Irish performance that, like the 1970s Liffey, will stink like hell.
This wasn’t one of those nights, happily. After an early goal the outcome was never in question. And a Robbie Keane hat-trick eventually gave the result a veneer of competence. But on a night when Austria beat Sweden to tighten their grip on second place in the qualifying group, there wasn’t too much here to encourage those romantics who still believe we can qualify for the World Cup.
Still, there were grounds for optimism. It was an occasion made for Irish playmaker Wes Hoolahan, whose educated left foot was in another class from the Faroes midfield, all of whose feet had been forced to leave school early. And the Norwich City player did as much as he could have to impress a sceptical Giovanni Trapattoni.
But it was the veteran captain Keane who stole all the headlines. Making his 126th international appearance and having spoken of his ambition to go on playing until he stops scoring, he took just over four minutes to add to his Irish record goals total. A low Aiden McGeady cross put it on a plate for him and Keane, 33 going on ageless, did the rest.
The future was bright. His boots were orange. And he should have had a second on 25 minutes when a very clever move from a free-kick split the Faroes defence. It was almost Brazilian in its execution, up until Keane’s attempted finish, which was was more like Los Angeles, his current home.
So we had to wait until the 55th minute before the captain finally got his second and the fans could fully relax. This time the low cross came from the right, via Seamus Coleman. Otherwise it was a replica of the first, slide home by an orange boot for Keane’s 58th international goal.
There followed an amusing cameo in which a substitute called Sammon came on against a team of North Sea fisherman. A giant Sammon at that. In the event, he didn’t see any net action. But with 10 minutes to go, he temporarily distracted the Faroes back four long enough to slip another low pass in to Keane, who gleefully turned home his third daisy-cutter of the night.