Robbie Keane has handed Giovanni Trapattoni a massive European Championship boost and declared himself fit for Saturday night’s big European Championship qualifier away to Macedonia.
The Ireland captain trained at the match stadium on Friday evening then declared himself fit enough to start the crunch game despite a groin injury picked up in training on Wednesday.
Trapattoni, who will assess Keane’s fitness again in a light work-out on Saturday morning, has named his skipper alongside Simon Cox in attack for a game Ireland really have to win.
And Keane’s message to the fans in Skopje was a defiant one as he edges ever closer to a record 50th international goal.
“Rest assured I will be on the pitch tonight, this groin injury won’t keep me away,” said Keane.
“It would be great to get the goal tonight but the most important thing is that we win the match, for the fans who have travelled here and those watching at home.”
Manager Trapattoni is also confident that Keane will be fit enough to lead his attack after preferring West Brom newcomer Cox to Reading’s Shane Long in a surprise move.
“We have only, I hope, a little doubt about what happened to Robbie. I think we can have a check on Saturday but I hope he can play because it is important for us that he can play.”
Trapattoni has opted for Fulham’s Stephen Kelly at right-back against the Macedonians with Darren O’Dea alongside John O’Shea at centre-back.
Glenn Whelan will be partnered by Keith Andrews in the centre of midfield with Stephen Hunt and Aiden McGeady on the flanks.
The Ireland team to play Macedonia is: Shay Given; Stephen Kelly, Darren O’Dea, John O’Shea, Kevin Kilbane; Aidan McGeady, Glenn Whelan, Keith Andrews, Stephen Hunt; Robbie Keane, Simon Cox.