Record-breaker Robbie Keane bags hat-trick for Ireland against Faroes
'Hoolahan was fantastic. He has time, he can pass, he has good personality and he is also tough'
Ireland’s Robbie Keane celebrates after scoring against the Faroe Islands during the World Cup Group C game at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photograph: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters
Six more years, he says. Six more years before Robbie Keane hangs up his armband and leaves the goals to the others. At this rate, he will run out of countries to score against if he keeps plugging away for that length of time. On the night he became the most capped Ireland soccer player in history, his hat-trick was worth three points. It was also just about the only thing a fag-end of the season game had to recommend it.
The Faroes came and did what they were supposed to. They dug in and sweated litres onto the grass. And though Ireland were never in any danger, this was the hardest work done in the hot sun since the law issued orders for breaking rocks. If we hadn’t Keane’s various gaiscí to hang up our brightest colours for, you might be looking at a blank page here.
‘Privilege and honour’
“It was nice to get the goals,” Keane said afterwards. “But obviously, most important was the three points. All in all it was a good day for us. It’s always important against these teams to get the first goal and I managed to do that. I keep saying it’s a privilege and an honour to play for my country. To put this green jersey on means a hell of a lot to me and long may it continue.
“Aiden (McGeady) was on fire in the first half especially, he was killing the full-back. I just anticipated the pull-back and lucky enough for me I managed to get there to get the first ball.
“It’s about movement and getting in front of the first man, knowing where the ball will go. I’ve been lucky enough in my career to score a few, so you get used to knowing certain positions to be in where the ball might go.”
The upshot was that Ireland finished the night as we expected they would. Behind Austria on goal difference with Sweden three points further back but a game in hand to their name. But boy, oh boy, was it tough going.
If ever a game didn’t need an early goal, this was it. The frankly Balearic weather was already enough to remind the players that the finest VIP beach resorts money can rent are but days away at this stage. Stirring an early Ireland goal into the mix was guaranteed to suck whatever remaining chutzpah they had. What were they going to strain and stretch for – goal difference? Please.
Yet arrive it did, just past the tick of the fourth minute. Wes Hoolahan’s first toss into the night’s pot was a snappy turn and flick out to the left wing for Aiden McGeady to run onto. One touch, one glance, early ball. Keane’s clipped finish across his body killed the game dead.
Hoolahan the architect
He followed up with a second 10 minutes into the second half, Hoolahan again the architect with a clever ball out to the right this time. Séamus Coleman’s cross left Keane with a tap-in.
And the hat-trick arrived 10 minutes from the end, substitute Conor Sammon trapping beautifully on the edge of the six-yard box before handing Keane another on a plate.
“Obviously this evening it was very important to win the game,” said Giovanni Trapattoni afterwards. “And we did that. People waiting on five, six, seven, eight goals – it is not so easy. But we played well. I think in the first half we had a lot of opportunities to score. But the players had the sun in their eyes and it was hard for them to pass the ball. Tonight we are happy for our captain. I know Irish players for the past 30, 40 years and he is the best Irish player.”
Hoolahan’s contribution stood out a mile and, to Trap’s credit, there was none of his usual obstinacy when asked about the Norwich player. There was even, gasp, an admission that he had been wrong in the past.
“Hoolahan was fantastic,” said the manager. “He has time, he can pass, he has good personality and he is also tough. Maybe it’s true that we ignored him slightly in the past. But our job was to qualify from the group. We had (Darron) Gibson, we had (Glenn) Whelan, we had (Keith) Andrews, we had others.
“It is a pity because he has shown us again that he is very creative. He is one of the best Irish players in his position. If he continues to play like that, sure, yes I can pick him again. He has done well for two or three games. I have already said he’s a great player.”
A dash of humility from the boy Trapattoni. Truly the sun does strange things to people.