FAI confirm change of plan for Keane


TWO DAYS after Giovanni Trapattoni suggested that he would allow Robbie Keane to play for his club in New Jersey less than 72 hours prior to the first of Ireland’s critically important two European Championship qualifiers against Andorra and Armenia, the FAI has said that the Ireland captain will now be arriving in Dublin next Monday, the same time as the rest of the squad.

Trapattoni said on Friday when he was naming his preliminary squad for the games that he had spoken with Keane and told the player it was up to him if he wanted to play next Tuesday evening in the rescheduled game between LA Galaxy and the New York Red Bulls. The match, as it happens, was never of much consequence to the Irishman’s club but it was rendered all but meaningless over the weekend by a win over Columbus Crew, in which Keane was not involved, that guaranteed LA top spot in MLS’ Western Conference and a favourable draw in the play-offs.

Under Fifa rules, the Italian was entitled to prevent Keane playing a competitive club match so close to a competitive international one but the veteran coach said that this had never been his way. In the wake of Saturday’s win, though, there appears to have been no resistance to the player travelling prior to the game in New York.

The move is likely to have come as a relief to the FAI. Trapattoni had openly accepted last week that as things stood Keane might arrive in too tired to play in the first of the two games while the possibility that his captain might have picked up an injury that could have kept him out of both games was never touched upon.

It was clear that if either eventuality had come to pass and Ireland failed to win one or both of the games, a scenario that could well put an end to the team’s hopes of qualifying for next summer’s finals in Poland and Ukraine, then all concerned in allowing the situation to arise were going to come in for some pretty strong criticism.

However, it was confirmed by the association last night that the position has changed and Keane will now skip the MLS match and travel to Dublin in plenty of time to accompany the rest of the squad on the flight to Barcelona on the Wednesday morning.