Keane display puts Ireland on the verge of glory


So Ireland marked the end of term with an all-singing all-dancing production at Lansdowne Road last night. Some goals, some samba and a little sunshine. We forgot our troubles. We beat Georgia. We looked young and dashing and fresh.

Keano! Keano! Keano! we chanted in appreciation of the Keano nouveau. And indeed it was young Robbie Keane's night. He only scored once in the course of a 2-0 win but he did so much else that it would be no surprise to learn that he had mowed the pitch and ironed the kits beforehand.

This was quite a transformation from Saturday's stale fare. Brian Kerr is new to this level but he has learned enough about the unreliability of foreigners to know that they cannot be depended upon to score own goals and gift-wrap victories twice in the space of a week. As a precaution, therefore, he desisted from the wild experimentation of Saturday and put out a meat and potatoes side to do the things which they know best.

Yet for long periods of the first half it looked as if Kerr needn't have bothered. Keane was making a persuasive case for downsizing team numbers. He defended. He prompted from the midfield. He made crosses and did his darndest to get on the end of them himself .

Ireland had reverted to the National Formation of 4-4-2 and the National Tactic of planting a big man up front but Keane seemed exquisitely uninterested. A Brazilian trapped in the body of a Tallaght man. He ignored Gary Doherty's formidable presence on the edge of the area and played instead like a scabby-kneed schoolboy who knows he's better than everyone else in the yard. If he availed of Doherty at all it was for shade from the unseasonal sun which washed over Lansdowne.

All the queerer, then, that Ireland's first goal should have come off the underused head of Doherty. A free kick, a little swan-like dipping of the neck to meet it and the ball crept sneakily into the Georgian net.

Doherty is one of those curious players. He can look Premiership class one week, as useful as a rubber crutch the next week. Except in Georgia. There he is omnipotent. He scored in Tbilisi and he scored again last night.

Early in the second half the inevitable happened. Robbie Keane scored his goal. Not a thing of beauty but none too shabby either, the goal had the novel aspect of having Lee Carsley as its creative driving force. Carsley hooked a ball over the Georgian defence. Keane did the rest.

Autumn and glory beckon.

Match report, commentary: