Robbie Keane will finally grace the Tallaght Stadium turf today, Saturday the 21st of February, when LA Galaxy play Shamrock Rovers in an eagerly anticipated friendly match. The 34-year-old Ireland international told members of the media about his excitement at finally getting to play at the Stadium which opened in his hometown six years ago. “It’s very exciting to be here all week in my hometown [Dublin]. The other players I think have enjoyed it, it’s been a good trip.
“It’s been a great week and obviously now it’s down to the game which is the reason why we’re here. I think everybody’s excited to play the game against a good Shamrock Rovers team with a good manager, so I’m sure it will be an interesting and difficult game.
“For us the most important thing is to get ourselves ready for the start of the season on the sixth of March so this will certainly be a good fitness test for us!”
The record breaking striker had long left Ireland to ply his trade across the water when the Tallaght Stadium project was finally coming to fruition, but he recalled his emotions when he heard that the ground was to be built. “As soon as I heard that they were trying to build a stadium in Tallaght I thought it was certainly a great thing for Shamrock rovers and the Tallaght community. Even though it’s still taken a long time to maybe finish it, it’s a great stadium. I hadn’t actually played here before, I’ve trained here a few times with the Irish team so I’m sure it will be a good atmosphere tomorrow and I’m looking forward to it.”
Contrary to rumours that have circulated about Keane, he admitted that he hadn’t actually watched Rovers that much when he was younger and was in fact a big fan of Shelbourne winger Mark Rutherford. “There used to be a bus locally that used to go in for the Shelbourne games and I remember watching the left winger [Rutherford]. We used to go, not very often but a few times.
“But now that they actually have a stadium in Tallaght where my nephews actually have season tickets for Shamrock Rovers. So as I say it’d been great for the community.”
Currently under contract at Rovers arch rivals, Bohemians, is Jason Byrne; a striker who has two caps for the Irish senior team and is 19 goals from all-time leading scorer in the League of Ireland, Brendan Bradley. Byrne is also the cousin of the LA Galaxy star, who says that the pair are constantly in touch, with Keane hoping Byrne will break the record within the next two years. “I told him to carry on as much as he can. How great would it be, me having the international goal record and my cousin having the all-time League of Ireland record? It would be a great achievement for the family. Certainly I’ve been on his case to continue playing for a long time. I think the record holder [Brendan Bradley] played in the First Division for a number of years also, so even if he doesn’t beat it this year maybe he can drop down a league and I’ll have a chance to beat him. But even if he doesn’t [beat the record] Jason’s had an unbelievable career.
“He didn’t ask for advice, but I just told him to keep going. Why shouldn’t he? He’s still banging in goals, it’s not like he’s struggling or anything. He still keeps himself fit. He looks after himself and hopefully he can continue playing for a few more years yet!”
When asked about former international team-mates Keith Fahey and Stephen McPhail, who returned to the league with St. Patrick’s Athletic and Shamrock Rovers respectively last season and are now both at the Tallaght club, Keane branded the latter “a manager’s dream” who can play anywhere across the middle of the park while saying that even now Fahey “definitely” has “the quality to play in England.” He considered both of the signings as “great for the league”, but was sure to confirm to not only the members of the media, but manager Bruce Arena who was sitting inches away, that he was “fairly happy” in Los Angeles for the time being and while not ruling out a move back to Ireland eventually, he said that “at this moment in time” a spell in the League of Ireland was not on the cards.
Photograph Credit: George Kelly Photography.
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