Watch out if you're a U2 fan because there's a major anti-Bono rant coming, but first let's step back in time to last Thursday morning and the conversation that preceded the anger you will soon bear witness to. To be fair to the man from the radio station, he was only picking up on something that he had heard coming live from the RTE television studio the night before. Should Giovanni Trapattoni, he asked, keep Robbie Keane in the Ireland team for the forthcoming World Cup double header at home to Bulgaria and away to Italy that will decide our South African fate? Was there, he wondered, any reason why the Irish management and fans should keep faith with their captain after the lucky escape against Georgia the night before? Well yes, I said, as I pulled in on the side of the road from Dunshaughlin to Ratoath as I tried to make my way to a Trapattoni post-match press conference in the Clontarf Castle hotel that used to be famous for Maureen Potter cabaret shows. (The last time I'd been there, by the way, was for a kiddie's concert when my eldest, now almost 16, was still young enough to want to sing along with a man in a purple dinosaur suit, but we try not to talk about it!) Back to Thursday morning, the morning after the night before when the worst penalty decision I have ever seen in any football match at any level had rescued Trap's team and sent them on their way to a fortunate 2-1 win over Georgia at Croke Park. At a time when a committed Ireland team were chasing a 1-0 deficit with plenty of power and passion but without any real purpose, the intervention of a Finnish referee in charge of his last game at this level may have changed the course of our current World Cup journey. The 73rd minute penalty was apparently awarded for a handball by Lobjanidze, but why is anyone's guess. Cometh the hour cometh the man, and not for the first time in his career, Robbie Keane scored a goal for Ireland, this time from the penalty spot. As he ran back to the center circle, with the ball in his hand to signify the urgency of Ireland's cause, Keane did his best to rise the crowd and get them as excited as he was. He did that, and then more than that just five minutes later when he headed home Aiden McGeady's corner from just four yards for a crucial winner. Those two goals are just numbers 37 and 37 of the 37 reasons why Robbie Keane should always play for Ireland, for as long as he is a professional footballer who can compete at the highest level. To leave him on the bench in a bid to remind him of what it takes to play on the international stage, as some pundits suggested afterwards, would be to insult the greatest Irish striker of his generation. Ireland needs Robbie Keane in the team because he scores goals, lots of goals as the history books will tell you. To date he has scored 37 of those priceless commodities, more than any other Irish player in history, and any day now he will double the previous record held by Frank Stapleton, Tony Cascarino and Niall Quinn in recent times. That's why talk of Keane's demise is foolhardy. When Ireland needed the game to be pulled from the fire at Croke Park last Wednesday night it was Keane again who answered the 999 call. When Trapattoni's limited tactics badly needed someone to put the ball in the Georgian net after 73 minutes of abject failure to do just that, it was Keane who scored - not once but twice. To drop him, to consider a current Irish side without Keane ahead of the defining games in this campaign against Bulgaria and Italy, is to commit sacrilege to a player as good as any to wear the green shirt before him, no matter what his detractors think. All of which brings me nicely to the Bono rant at a time when the Irish media seem hell bent on beatifying the little man again as they celebrate the official release of the "Get On Your Boots" single that features him singing like a demented choirboy. Not long after our on-air discussion about Robbie's worth to the Irish team on Thursday morning, another radio station invited callers to talk up U2 and their new single and album. One listener went so far as to say it was great that U2 were flying the flag for Ireland at a time when the country was going down the pans, and wasters like Keane were letting the national football team down. I have to tell you I nearly crashed my car as the rage rose on the Blanchardstown bypass. For anyone to suggest that Keane is a waster next to Bono in these hard times is another insult to Tallaght's finest footballing expert. Robbie Keane served his country proud, not just last Wednesday night but every other time he had worn his national jersey. Bono - not that the Irish media will want to tell you this as they fall over each other to praise his latest album efforts - is a non-taxpayer who takes full advantage of this country's ridiculous laws on tax exemptions for artists. So the next time anyone tells you that Bono is a great singer and a great Irishman, ask him or her how much tax their saint has paid to the national coffers at a time when the rest of us are being asked to cough up ever more. If he's such a national treasure and such a proud Irishman then Bono should pay up like the rest of us and make his contribution before the government cuts any more budgets for special needs teachers and the likes. Give me Robbie Keane over Bono any day - even if he pays his income tax in England.
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