Ireland's captain Robbie Keane will collect his 100th cap today for the Republic of Ireland with the same passion and enthusiasm as the day he won his first one 12 years ago. And later tonight Keane will lead out his players for the first time into the Republic’s new home, the 420 million euro Aviva Stadium.
Despite playing for seven clubs over 13 years, Keane’s loyalty to his country in an age of prima donna players pursuing their own club careers, is commendable.
'I still have that buzz and enthusiasm for the game. I always want to play for my country,' Keane told the press this week. You’ve all known for many years, I’ve never pulled out of squads for any reason.'
'But I love playing for my country, I love coming back, and I don’t think that will ever change. It’s hard to believe, though, it’ll be my 100th cap. For years I didn’t think about how many I might win.'
“But as it has drawn closer then it has obviously been more and more in my sights. I know I’m very fortunate to have reached 100 caps, but hopefully there will be a few more to come after.
'So I’m really looking forward to the occasion, particularly as my little lad (15 moth old Robbie Jr.) is going to be the mascot.
'That’s great for me. Having him on the pitch with me will make it an even more special occasion.'
After scoring a remarkable 43 goals in his 99 international games so far, Keane is seven shy of breaking the British Isles record of 49 set by Bobby Charlton with England.
'Every Irish fan keeps mentioning that record to me, and of course it would great to beat it,' said Keane.
“I certainly feel I’ve a few more goals and caps left in me, so it would be a great achievement. But more than that I want to help us qualify for the European Championship.
'If you look at the games we’ve been involved in, we’ve come very close on occasion, but we’ve made mistakes or we just didn’t have that bit of luck we needed. I certainly feel we should have been involved in more tournaments than we have recently.'
The build-up to today’s game has been overshadowed by the news Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni was taken to Dublin’s Mater Hospital in the early hours of the morning suffering from a case of food poisoning.
The 71-year-old remains in a stable condition, with the hope he will be able to take his place in the dugout for the game today.