Tottenham striker Robbie Keane and Manchester City defender Richard Dunne are set to figure in the Republic of Ireland’s friendly with Serbia here on Saturday – Giovanni Trapattoni’s first game as manager.
The Premier League duo trained with the rest of the squad at Malahide on Thursday after the return of the 22-strong squad from a six day trip to Portugal.
Keane and Dunne were excused the trip, along with Champions League winner John O’Shea and Celtic pair Aiden McGeady and Darren O’Dea – the latter trio are due to link up on Friday – as new boss Trapattoni ran the rule over some of his younger players.
However, the Italian is ready to throw them straight back into the mix at Croke Park at the weekend after talking them through what they had missed on the Algarve.
Trapattoni said: “We have welcomed back Richard and Robbie. I have spoken to them and I have clarified a little bit what we did last week in Portugal.
“They understand what I am looking for in our system, and I think they can play on Saturday.
“We played five minutes with that system and they are happy, and that’s important with more difficult opponents.”
Trapattoni has already confirmed that 27-year-old Keane will retain the captaincy, and underlined his importance to the team after working with him at Gannon Park this evening.
He said: “I said last month how important I believe Robbie is because football is about power, creativity and intelligence.
“Robbie at Tottenham has experience, personality and he brings a calm to the rest of the team.
“He has the timing in his head, and that is important. On Monday, we played and it was very quick. But sometimes you have to think about it more.”
Trapattoni has made a point of insisting he wants his team to be able to play a variety of systems, and believes Keane could be key to that.
However, he was quick to point to the difference in what is required of him at Spurs and how he sees him playing for his country.
The manager said: “I have seen many, many games live and also on DVD. I cannot speak about other teams because there are other team-mates.
“In England, the football is very difficult, but the ball flies in England.
“Robbie needs to play football. He understands when the ball is coming, he knows already in his head what to do.
“When the ball is always in the air, he needs a shotgun.”
Shane Long, Wes Hoolahan and Daryl Murphy, who picked up knocks in Portugal, all trained Thursday, but Darren Potter remains a doubt with a heel problem. Martin Rowlands, who impressed on the tour, limped out of the session with an ankle injury which will be assessed over the next 24 hours.
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