Keane: I am a proud Irishman
Republic of Ireland captain Robbie Keane has warned players to fully commit to the nation's cause or not play at all. Keane has been bemused by the high number of players withdrawing from international duty for the Carling Nations Cup this past week.
Ireland have had plenty of problems with mystery initially surrounding the failure of James McCarthy, Jon Walters and Marc Wilson to report for duty. While Keane has not criticised that trio - who have now been confirmed as injured, and all were recruited under eligibility rules - the 30-year-old does not feel everyone shares his passion for international football.
"I think that is obviously clear to see," the striker said. "It frustrates everybody but what can you do about it? I don't know the answer. I would never do it but if people don't want to play for Ireland, don't declare yourself to play for Ireland. It's simple.
"I have never once pulled out of a squad for any reason apart being injured. I am a proud Irishman. As a kid growing up it was always a dream to play for my country. I still have that same hunger and enthusiasm that I had when I first had the opportunity. That will never change for me."
The eligibility rule has served Ireland well over the years, but it remains a contentious issue. Scotland-born McCarthy's commitment has particularly been questioned after he withdrew from a squad in February amid rumours he was set to defect to the land of his birth. Though, that can now not happen as he subsequently appeared in a UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier against Macedonia in March.
However, his non-appearance in Dublin this week, for which manager Giovanni Trapattoni initially said there was no explanation, has brought his future back into question. Trapattoni is equally surprised by some players' apparent lack of appetite for international football and feels they will live to regret it.
"When they retire they will understand," the Italian manager said. "I never always understood what was important when I was younger. In time they will think and they will understand."
Ireland now want to draw a line under the issue as they step up preparations for next week's return qualifier in Macedonia. They face Scotland tomorrow in the final match of the Nations Cup in Dublin and Keane is expecting stiffer competition than in Tuesday's 5-0 trouncing of Northern Ireland.
Keane tops the charts
Ireland now want to draw a line under the issue as they step up preparations for next week's return qualifier in Macedonia. They face Scotland tomorrow in the final match of the Nations Cup in Dublin and Keane is expecting stiffer competition than in Tuesday's 5-0 trouncing of Northern Ireland. "It is going to be tough for us," Keane said. "No disrespect to Northern Ireland, I am sure it will be a bigger test. I watched their game (against Wales) and I was very impressed with them."
Keane, already Ireland's record goalscorer, struck twice on Tuesday to take his tally for the country up to 48 and now has his sights set on a half-century. "If you'd asked me a few years ago when I started off, I wouldn't even have dreamed of scoring 50 goals," he said.
"My aim was to beat Niall Quinn's record (of 21). I did that and I'm lucky enough the goals have kept coming. If I don't do it tomorrow, hopefully it will against Macedonia. If it does happen it will be a very proud moment, obviously I'd be delighted."