Robbie Keane will be asked to choose between World Cup revenge in New York and Ireland’s European Championship dream next month.
The Irish captain faces his first club vs. country crisis ahead of the final euro qualifiers against Andorra and Armenia in October.
The LA Galaxy are demanding that Keane be available for the re-arranged MLS clash with Thierry Henry’s Red Bulls in New York on Tuesday, October 4.
That game will be played 48 hours after the Irish squad meet up in Dublin and just 72 hours before Ireland kick-off away to Andorra.
Irish boss Giovanni Trapattoni is aware of Keane’s dilemma but won’t invoke the FIFA five day rule to force his captain out of the Red Bulls fixture, re-arranged from last month due to Hurricane Irene.
“I will leave the decision to Robbie Keane,” a diplomatic Trapattoni told the Daily Star.
“I will put him in the position to make the call himself. Robbie told me when he went to America that he will always answer the call.
“He always wants to play for his country. I will let him decide what he does that week.
“If he plays the game in America, I will get the DVD sent to us and see how he does. Then I will ask him how he feels about playing in Andorra.
“It is up to him. When he comes to us we will see if he is fresh or not but it will be his decision.”
Meanwhile, Trapattoni has vowed to avoid a Jack Charlton-style fall down a mountain when Ireland attempt to scale the European Championship heights next month.
Charlton paid a heavy price when his Irish team could only draw 0-0 away to Liechtenstein in the Euro ’96 qualifiers before bowing out in the playoff to Holland in the game that cost Big Jack his job.
Trapattoni’s side are now just two wins away from a guaranteed place in the Euro 2012 playoffs after last week’s heroic rearguard action in the scoreless draw in Moscow.
A win in Andorra and a home victory against Armenia at the start of October could even earn Trap’s team automatic qualification if Slovakia beat Russia in Zilina.
Irish fans are already taking the three points from Andorra’s tiny 1,800 capacity ground for granted, but Trapattoni knows well that Charlton’s lot famously “drew with the side of a mountain” as one pundit put it back in June, 1995.
“We cannot take anything for granted in Andorra and we will not,” said Trapattoni as his team looks to make it eight clean sheets in a row in the tiny principality next month.
“I have been in this situation many, many times in the past when you have to go and play at a small ground and with only a few of your fans there.
“But we have the experience now to cope with this. My players have been to Montenegro and to Moscow when the crowd and the atmosphere has been difficult for us.
“It was difficult in the last World Cup group when we had to go to play Georgia in Germany because of the war there. We will cope with this.
“Our players have enough experience playing in the Champions League and the Europa League to know what to do.
“We have the mentality to go there and win. The pitch is the same for both teams. We will play with a cool head and a warm body.
“I will remind them how they played in Moscow, in Armenia and in Slovakia.”
A deeply religious man, Trapattoni will again pray to St. Patrick ahead of the October games that will decide his team’s European Championship progress and his own future.
The FAI are aware that other national teams and club sides are interested in the veteran Italian but won’t rush into any deal before Ireland’s Euro 2012 fate is known.
Trapattoni openly thanked St. Patrick after the miraculous scoreless draw away to Russia that has put his team back into contention for a trip to Poland and the Ukraine next summer.
“I was born on St. Patrick’s Day so he has always been my patron saint as well as Ireland’s,” laughed Trapattoni.
“I will pray to him again. St. Patrick looked after us in Moscow and we will need him on our side again in October.”
Shay Given and Richard Dunne were also on the receiving end of the Trapattoni’s thanksgiving as they returned to club duties with Aston Villa this weekend.
“Shay Given was back to his best in Russia, so was Richard,” repeated the Ireland manager.
“For me, we could see how much the move to a new club has worked for Shay. Richard is back to his best as well and it is unlucky that he is suspended for the next game.
“But I am confident for Andorra. We have mentality and we have belief now. We deserve to qualify.”
Moscow hero Richard Dunne is determined to see the job done when Ireland’s European Championship fate is decided next month.
Dunne turned in a man of the match performance to keep Russia at bay last week as Ireland somehow took a point in the scoreless draw.
Slovakia then lost 4-0 at home to Armenia which means Ireland are now guaranteed the playoffs at worst if they beat Andorra (away) and Armenia (home) next month.
A Slovakia victory against Russia in Zilina, on the night Ireland play in Andorra, could even send Giovanni Trapattoni’s team through as group winners if they win both games.
Speaking after his incredible performance in Moscow, akin to Paul McGrath’s famous display against Italy in New York, Dunne said, “It’s a tough place to come and we knew if we lost here, it was going to be over for us so we wanted to put in a performance where if we were going out, we were going down with a fight.
“There are a lot of us probably in our last campaign who want to get to a finals, and hopefully this will help us get that.”
Irish goalkeeper Shay Given led the praise for Dunne. “Richard was immense,” said Given. “He has got his face stapled up there and he really put his head on the line for his country. He was fantastic.
“Now if we can get maximum points in our last two games, we have got a real chance of qualifying, whether it be first or second in a play-off.”
Stevens for Villa
Aston Villa new boy Enda Stevens has a bit of European business to attend to with Shamrock Rovers before he realizes his Premier League dream.
Stevens will finalize his big move to Villa Park once Rovers have completed their Europa League group stage commitments in December.
Michael O’Neill’s Premier Division champions make history on Thursday night when they welcome Rubin Kazan of Russia to Tallaght for the first ever Europa League group stage game involving an Irish club.
Stevens played a huge rule in getting them to this stage in the playoff win over Partizan Belgrade, and he can’t wait for the next leg of the big adventure for all connected with the Hoops.
“I have an exciting few months ahead of me all right,” agreed the 21-year-old. “We have the run-in to our bid to defend the League of Ireland title and we have the Europa League group games to look forward to as well.
“Then when that’s all over, I will be heading over to England and starting a new life as an Aston Villa player. It’s a fantastic move for me and a great few weeks to look forward to with Rovers before I go.
“My aim now is to do well with Shamrock Rovers in the Europa League, win the League again and then get over to Villa and settle in with my new team-mates. I’m really excited by it all.”
Sligo Rovers threw the League of Ireland title race wide open with a 2-1 win at Shamrock Rovers on Friday night courtesy of a late goal from John Dillon. St. Pat’s maintained their momentum with a 3-0 win at Bray, Derry won 2-1 at home to UCD, Galway drew 2-2 with visitors Dundalk to end their long run of defeats and Bohs took all three points with a 2-0 win at Drogheda.
John Brennan has been appointed manager of Galway United on a caretaker basis after the club parted company with Sean Connor following the draw with Dundalk.
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