Republic will never give up – Keane

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Published: Monday 30th March 2015 by The News Editor

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Robbie Keane has warned the Republic of Ireland’s Group D rivals that they will fight until the last second of the campaign to secure a place in the Euro 2016 finals.

Substitute Shane Long’s 91st-minute strike at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday evening denied leaders Poland victory and secured a 1-1 draw and a potentially precious point for the Republic.

It was the third time in five games to date in the qualifying programme that Martin O’Neill’s men had struck a blow in the dying embers, with John O’Shea snatching a draw in Germany in October last year with a 94th-minute effort after Aiden McGeady’s last-minute winner in Georgia a month earlier.

Asked if a draw with the Poles in Dublin represented two points dropped, captain Keane said: “No. When you go a goal behind and you score in the last few minutes of the game, it’s certainly a point gained.

“If we’d have scored earlier, maybe so, if we’d continue to play the way we did in the second half. But when you score a goal in the last few minutes, it’s certainly a point gained.

“It will give us confidence as well going into the next game, knowing that we can keep going and fighting until the very end and get something out of the game.”

Ireland’s hopes of qualification looked to be hanging by a thread as the game entered its final throes with the visitors tenaciously defending the 26th-minute lead Slawomir Peszko had given them, even if goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski had been grateful for the assistance of the woodwork on two occasions.

But, in the first of five minutes of stoppage time, the diminutive Wes Hoolahan rose to head Robbie Brady’s corner back across goal, and Long was in the right place at the right time to beat the keeper.

Keane said: “Of course, it certainly gives us confidence. You look at the effort from the players fitness-wise, everyone closing down the defenders and closing down the midfielders and how hard we made it in the second half for Poland.

“We have to give ourselves a lot of credit. When you go a goal behind against anybody, it’s always difficult, and when you are chasing the game and chasing the game, you feel like it’s not going to come.

“To get that goal at the end was certainly a relief because it was certainly well deserved. It would have been a travesty if we didn’t get something out of the game.”

The Republic were less than impressive before the break as they struggled to gain a foothold in the game, and it was not until Hoolahan was moved from his number 10 role to the left flank, in the process freeing up Jon Walters to join Keane in attack, that the tide changed.

Keane said: “We maybe showed them a little bit too much respect. We dropped off a little bit too much. But then you see the difference in the second half. Full credit to the players – we showed a lot of character, a lot of heart.

“You saw the desperation for us to get back into that game and, thankfully, we did. We were unlucky a couple of times just before that. If we’d have got the early goal, I think we would have put a lot of pressure on them and I think we probably would have gone on and nicked it.”

The draw leaves Ireland still three points adrift of Poland and two behind both Germany and Scotland, the latter of whom who head for the Aviva Stadium in June, and keeper Shay Given, who was recalled to the starting line-up in place of David Forde to win in 128th cap, is predicting a tight finish to the pool.

He said: “It will probably come down to the wire. It will probably come down to the last couple of games.

“Had we lost, it would have been a big blow to us, of course, but we have still got a lot of games to go, and who knows what that point is going to do at the end of the campaign? It was a massive point, I think.

“It was such a late goal, you probably take it as a point gained. We’ll have belief as well going to Poland, especially from the second-half performance.

“They are a good team, but you can get at them. If we can play on the front foot out in Poland as well, then we can cause them some problems. The second-half performance was pretty pleasing and, if we could take that into the Scotland game as well, then I think it will be a big point.”

Published: Monday 30th March 2015 by The News Editor

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