Richard Keogh delighted to be back in Republic frame
Patient Derby defender thrilled to be in O’Neill’s starting X1 – and now, as a bonus, as captain
Richard Keogh: “If we play with intensity and at our best, we know we are a good team.” Photograph: Ross Byrne/Inpho
Wales, it sometimes seemed over the last 18 months, might have gone a long way towards ending Richard Keogh’s international career with their last visit to Dublin.
Martin O’Neill makes much of how well his side coped with Chris Coleman’s men that night but the Derby defender had a difficult night as Gareth Bale sought to drive the visitors forward and Keogh found himself marginalised by the manager afterwards.
Having capped the 32-year-old in a competitive game for the first time since on Saturday, when Keogh actually captained the side, the pair were able to laugh about it all at Monday’s pre-match press conference.
O’Neill talked after the Denmark game of the on-field influence that Keogh exerts on those around him. Shane Duffy, on the face of it, might seem the more likely leader in the team but it is Keogh, the manager said, who keeps talking to those around him, issuing warnings, instructions or encouragement as required.
The player seems happy to be appreciated and delighted to be back in the competitive frame but he had, he said, few complaints about being left out and no real fears that his time with Ireland might actually be up.
“No, not at all,” he says good-naturedly.
“I think the reality is we have got some good players in my position who are playing in the Premier League. Not that I’m not playing at a high level myself, but the manager he has been fantastic for me ever since he has been in charge.
“I have played a lot of games, he has given me some of the best memories of my career, so I have to thank him a lot for that. There are times when you have to be patient; that’s just the nature of football.”
Keogh is acutely aware of the criticism the manager has come in for at times in relation to tactics, results and the repeated suggestion that the players are sometimes not entirely on top of the top of the roles they are expected to play. The reality, he says, is that they are constrained by the limited time they have together as a squad. The responsibility, he insists, is the players’.
“We have a short period after meeting up together and there is not a lot of time for the manager to get over exactly what he and the coaching staff wants. There is a lot of information coming to us, though, and it is up to us to take that on-board and make sure we put it into practice.
“I think if you were to ask any manager, he would love more time to go over exactly what they want, but sometimes it’s not possible. At the end of the day, when we go out there, it’s up to us to put in a performance and try to play to the best of our ability.”
Against a Bale-less Wales, he says, “we want to make sure that we are on the front-foot and are playing with intensity. If we play with intensity and at our best, we know we are a good team.”