Lack of top level exposure hindering Ireland’s progress, says Roy Keane

But proper mindset vital if we are to compete with top teams

 Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill, left, and assistant manager Roy Keane during their first live joint interview, at the introduction of Club Ireland, an FAI premium ticketing scheme. Photograph:  Barry Cregg/Sportsfile

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill, left, and assistant manager Roy Keane during their first live joint interview, at the introduction of Club Ireland, an FAI premium ticketing scheme. Photograph: Barry Cregg/Sportsfile

Wed, Jul 23, 2014, 01:00

Roy Keane has acknowledged the steady decline in the number of Irish players involved with the game’s top clubs has made the challenge of competing with the game’s top countries all the more daunting.

Ireland’s assistant manager, speaking with Martin O’Neill on Today FM last night, hailed Ireland’s Euro2016 group rivals Germany as worthy world champions but said the experience Joachim Löw’s men brought to Brazil from the Champions League, in particular, equipped them to compete in a way few Irish players can these days.

“They certainly would have been one of the best prepared and sometimes that comes down to money,” he said, “(but) they have an excellent and experienced coach and they have players who play in big games every season, particularly the Bayern and Real Madrid lads. They are playing in the Champions League and you can bring that experience to big tournaments. You can’t buy that.”

Exposure

Irish players are failing to feature at anything like that level for any number of reasons but they key thing, Keane says, is they are increasingly failing to gain that sort of experience or exposure:

“That’s been a big problem for the Irish team over the last few years. A lot of lads aren’t playing in big games – not even big Premier League matches.

“They are lower down in the leagues and when you get to these big games it’s difficult. But I don’t just think it’s the Irish players, it’s a lot more difficult to get to the very top. So this Germany team turned up and it produced the goods and that was no surprise to me.

“We are in for a tough time against them but we also have to have our own mindset and say if we can perform, with a bit of luck we can give them a game.”

The Germans, he feels, are hot favourites to win the qualification group but, he adds: “all the other teams would fancy their chances of finishing second. I think it could be exciting.

“It will be very tough. But from my own experience playing for Ireland, you have to believe you can win every game you go into. But it will be difficult. We certainly have one of the more difficult groups but there are games coming up that we should look forward to and be excited about.

“What we’ve learned with the group,” he continues, “is that the spirit is fine; the desire and determination, no problem with all that. I just hope, when we go into the campaign, when the players turn up, like I did when I was a player, they have a right go. Win, lose or draw, you accept it. I have no problem accepting defeat as long as we’ve had a right go.”

As for him giving working for both Ireland and Aston Villa a right go, he admits to being slightly perplexed by what an issue it has become.

“Easy,” he said last night when asked how he would pull it off, “I get up at half-six every morning and drive to work. I’ll do it no problem. I’m getting fed up with people being so worried about it.”

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