Richard Keogh well briefed on threat of France star Dimitri Payet

Ireland goalkeeper Darren Randolph has been informing team-mates of West Ham team-mate’s ability

Republic of Ireland centre half Richard Keogh heads clear while challenging Italy’s   Simone Zaza during the Group E game in Lille. Photograph: Denis Charlet/AFP/Getty Images

Republic of Ireland centre half Richard Keogh heads clear while challenging Italy’s Simone Zaza during the Group E game in Lille. Photograph: Denis Charlet/AFP/Getty Images

 

Darren Randolph has been giving his Ireland team-mates the skinny on his West Ham team-mate Dimitri Payet, who will be one of the chief threats that Richard Keogh and the other Irish defenders will cope with in Sunday’s last 16 clash.

Keogh sat beside Irish manager Martin O’Neill before the team’s final training session under 26 degrees heat in Lyon. Keogh had been held in reserve for the first few games but like the other Irish starting XI had a very strong game in the evocative 1-0 win over Italy. Since then, the Irish team have been trying to physically recover from that match while turning their minds to the French and Randolph has tried his best to help the Irish read Payet’s game.

“Yeah of course . . . like the manager said we go over the video analysis of their strengths and weaknesses. And he is having a great tournament and Darren obviously knows him, he works with him closely so yeah. I don’t think we have any special plans for him. We have a team ethic and go out and work hard for each other.”

Martin O’Neill hinted that he had gone through some hard deliberating before finalising his back four for the opening game against Sweden. He was cautious in his assessment of Stephen Ward’s injury, which may mean a re-alignment to the defence for Sunday’s match. But Keogh seems to have played his way back into the first XI.

“Richard has played some very important roles for us,” said O’Neill.

“He and Ciaran Clark played in the two matches against Bosnia which were very important and I had some decisions to make. And Richard and young Duffy might have considered themselves having a chance to play against Sweden. We manage the squad as best you can at the moment – and in tournament football, I experience this myself as a player: games come thick and fast and you do need some energy.”

For Keogh, the Italy game was one of the high points of a professional career which began at the age of 17 with Vikingur in Iceland. He was given his international debut by Giovanni Trapattoni in February 2013 but has flourished under the obvious trust which O’Neill has in his bracing, assertive defensive game.

“It was a special moment to be involved and to play how we did,” Keogh admits.

“I think you know the qualifying tournament went very well and just to be involved in this squad was massive for me.

“The manager had some tough decisions to make in the first game. They played very well and deserved to win that game and it’s not about individuals: it’s not about ‘he should play, he should play’. It is about being a team.

“That’s what we strive for and we support each other through thick and thin. You know, I said before that the manager could count on me if he picked me and I was lucky enough to be involved in that game.”

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