Keane on-song as Republic cruise


Published: Saturday 11th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Robbie Keane plundered a hat-trick as the Republic of Ireland maintained a perfect start to their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign with a 7-0 demolition of minnows Gibraltar.

Keane struck three times inside 12 first-half minutes to wrap up a second successive Group D victory before he and his team-mates had even broken sweat to leave the visitors in tatters.

The Ireland skipper, winning his 136th cap, has now scored 65 senior international goals, only three fewer than West Germany star Gerd Muller, whose haul of 68 came in just 62 appearances for his country.

James McClean added a second-half double either side of keeper Jordan Perez’s own goal, and Wes Hoolahan capped a fine individual display with the seventh with 59 minutes gone.

Martin O’Neill’s men were expected to win the game and win it handsomely, but they did so in a fashion which will have pleased those who have bemoaned Ireland’s failure in recent years to dispose of weaker opposition so emphatically.

Long before the final whistle, minds were already turning to the far more taxing proposition which awaits them in Germany on Tuesday evening, but the mission all along was to fly out there with six points safely banked, and that has been fulfilled.

At the end of a week during which the publication of assistant manager Roy Keane’s updated autobiography had been by far the biggest talking point, football and the business of collecting three precious points became the focus once again.

O’Neill had been at pains to stress in the run-up to the game that there would be no room for complacency even against a team made up of police officers, firefighters and students which shipped seven goals in its first competitive outing last month.

Patience was very much the watch-word, but the manager need not have worried.

Keane led Ireland out with 62 senior international goals to his name and by the time he left the field at half-time, the total had increased significantly.

Hoolahan, who tormented the visitors from the hole behind lone striker Keane, was the architect, although his evening had started in disappointing fashion when he missed the target from a fourth-minute header after being picked out unmarked by Aiden McGeady.

But it was he who slid McGeady in behind full-back Joseph Chipolina two minutes later to square for Keane to sweep home his low cross, and he who split the Gibraltar defence with an instinctive 10th-minute pass to allow the LA Galaxy frontman to make it 2-0.

Keane completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot with just 18 minutes gone after Hoolahan had been upended by Perez, and the points were secure.

But for Perez, Ireland might have led even more handsomely at half-time, but any respite was purely temporary as the scoreboard ticked over with almost monotonous regularity after the restart.

McClean needed just seconds to add his name to the scoresheet from Keane’s pass, and it was 5-0 with 51 minutes on the clock when the unfortunate Perez unwittingly turned the ball into his own net after denying Keane a fourth goal of his own.

Perez thwarted Keane once again two minutes later, but McClean was on hand to dispatch the rebound, and Hoolahan helped himself as the hour-mark approached, waltzing through a shell-shocked Gibraltar defender to make it 7-0.

He and Keane were withdrawn with 27 minutes remaining with O’Neill perhaps having one eye on Tuesday’s intensely difficult trip to Gelsenkirchen, but the result had been beyond doubt long before they headed for the showers.

To their credit, Gibraltar managed to hold out without further damage for more than half an hour as the Republic threatened to eclipse Poland’s tally against them last month, although the foot was off the pedal as time ran down on an evening which ultimately proved as straightforward as O’Neill would have hoped despite his earlier caveats.

Published: Saturday 11th October 2014 by The News Editor

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