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Robbie Keane says bye to the begrudgers in Ireland

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They've been lining up to partake in a recent Irish tradition all week -- the well-known sport called “Knock Robbie Keane.”

It’s a popular past-time in Ireland, particularly among a particular section of the media who have an opinion on Robbie that’s more immovable than the Statue of Liberty.

In their eyes, Robbie Keane is what we Irish call a chancer. According to them, he is a player of limited talent and even more limited ambition who has made a fortune out of moving on from one club to another.

This week’s move from Spurs of the English Premier League to the Los Angeles Galaxy of the MLS just feeds their anti-Robbie frenzy.

The man they love to hate played right into their hands when he confirmed on Tuesday that he is indeed going to follow on David Beckham’s road and chase a new start in the land of opportunity.

The usual suspects have publicly laughed at Robbie’s decision to take up the offer of a very lucrative deal from the Galaxy and set up roots at the wonderfully named Home Depot Center arena. (I know it’s a sponsored name by the way!)

Newspaper pages have been filled with all the usual Robbie rants about his lack of ambition, his lack of goals at the highest level and his failure to sign a contract for Sven Goran Eriksson at Leicester City in the Championship.

Quite clearly, few if any of these men have ever been in downtown Leicester. It’s not the sort of place that could ever compete with Hollywood in the glamour stakes. Not by a long shot.

But enough of the negativity, a trait so dominant in Irish life these days that those of us still sane are almost afraid to get out of bed in the morning for fear of being run down by the doom and gloom merchants.

I, for one, am not going to condemn Robbie Keane for taking the dollars on offer in Los Angeles.  I am loathe to condemn Robbie Keane full stop.

I didn’t jump on the bandwagon occupied by those who questioned his goal scoring ability for his country when he went through something of a dry spell under Brian Kerr and Steve Staunton, and I am not going to start now.
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After scoring 51 goals in an Irish shirt Robbie can do what he wants as far as I am concerned, and that’s exactly what he did this week -- he did what he wants to do.
He paid no attention to the tabloid or broadsheet experts who told him to opt for Leicester rather than LA.

He paid no heed to the experts in the media who claimed that the championship is a better workplace for his skills than the fledgling game that is Major League Soccer.

He won’t care that they suggested, rightly as it may well prove, that the MLS is about as competitive as an Ireland friendly in front of a half empty Aviva Stadium (Croatia last week springs to mind).

Robbie Keane doesn’t do opinions bar those he respects -- and those people are few and far between.

He respects Giovanni Trapattoni.  That’s why you can bet your bottom Galaxy dollar that Trap rubberstamped this move to America before Keane signed the contract.
He respects David Beckham, another key player in this move and not least when he trained alongside Keane at Spurs last winter.

And he respects his own judgment. He always has done. When people accused him of taking an easy ride at Celtic he responded with goals, goals and more goals for the Bhoys.

When people doubted his worth to the Ireland team he responded, against Macedonia in June, by breaking the international goal scoring record for the British and Irish isles held by Bobby Charlton.

And just this year, when people criticized his claims that he would step aside when a brighter prospect comes along for Ireland, the same critics jumped down his throat and accused him of lacking ambition.

Keane said this week that his move to Los Angeles is right for himself and for his family. That’s all that matters to him, and that’s all that should matter to him.
The day he signed his first contract as a professional footballer he became a commodity, a piece of meat as his namesake Roy once famously remarked.

He has now moved for a combined total transfer fee of some $135 million throughout his career, so clearly he has something to offer as a footballer. Still.

See you in Los Angeles Robbie – and the sooner the better!

Or maybe next week when you meet that plonker Thierry Henry in New York as the Red Bulls host the Galaxy.

Now there’s an MLS game that won’t lack for competitiveness or rivalry.



Sideline Views 

SOCCER: A lot of people are worried about the impact of Robbie Keane’s move to the MLS on his international career. There won’t be any. Giovanni Trapattoni doesn’t go to watch his players anyway so it makes no difference where Robbie plays his club football. And I am sure they have someone in Milan who can convert an American DVD to a European system for the Irish manager. Alternatively, the FAI could just buy him an American DVD player and a plug converter! Come to think of it, on Trap’s wages he can buy it himself.

GAA: The Offaly referee Carthage Buckley announced his retirement after 35 years of active service last weekend, and the chances are you have heard of him. Carthage was the match official at the infamous Battle of Aughrim in 1986 when tempers become so frayed that he had to receive a police escort out of the stadium after sending off three Laois players in their Leinster SFC game with Wicklow. Curiously, Buckley never got a big inter-county match after that, even when he was regarded as the best referee in Offaly.

HURLING: History was made at Croke Park on Sunday and a Manchester United jersey was along for the ride as Tipperary goalkeeper Brendan Cummins set a new appearances record when he played in his 66th championship game. The 36-year-old always wears a United shirt under his Tipp jersey and is now the most capped player in hurling after breaking a record held previously by the great Christy Ring.
RUGBY: Don’t read too much into recent results of the Irish team. The current games, as their title suggests, are warm-up matches for the Rugby World Cup and won’t matter when the real action gets underway in New Zealand next month. I’d be more worried about the fitness of Brian O’Driscoll, but it looks like the captain is close to a comeback.

SOCCER: Nice to see Shay Given back in action in the Premier League after he kept Damien Duff and Fulham scoreless for new club Aston Villa on Saturday. Shay did pick up a groin injury in the match but the good news is that he will be fit for the September showdowns with Slovakia and Russia.
GOLF: Great answer from Rory McIlroy when reporters at the USPGA Championship asked him why he was going to be in the same city as world tennis number one Caroline Wozniacki this week. “I hear it’s nice in Cincinnati this time of year,” said Rory with, I suspect, his tongue firmly in his cheek.


HERO OF THE WEEK

Little did I know, as I tried to stay awake late on Sunday night, that Keegan Bradley is Irish. I thought all our interest in the U.S. PGA Championship had ended when Rory and Padraig fell rather than slipped out of contention in Saturday’s third round. The Sky TV analysts never told me of Keegan’s Irish connections, but the man himself certainly did at his post tournament press conference -- so he’s well qualified for the much vaunted ‘hero of the week’ award. And I hope he lives up to his promise to play in the Irish Open some day.  Next year, probably in Killarney, would be a good start.

IDIOT OF THE WEEK

Those who run the GAA in San Francisco should hang their heads in shame after handing down just a 96-week ban to the player allegedly responsible for leaving Mark McGovern in hospital and his family with medical bills of over a million dollars. There may be a lack of witnesses, quite convenient really, but surely this incident deserved a life ban?

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