Football: Ireland legend Robbie Keane set to retire from international duty

Republic of Ireland's Robbie Keane applauds fans after a game.
Republic of Ireland's Robbie Keane applauds fans after a game.PHOTO: REUTERS

DUBLIN (AFP) - Republic of Ireland captain Robbie Keane announced on Wednesday (Aug 24) he will retire from international football after an emotional farewell in next week’s friendly against Oman in Dublin.

LA Galaxy forward Keane will bring the curtain down on a memorable 18-year international career that includes all-time Republic records of 67 goals and 145 senior caps.

The 36-year-old was named in Martin O’Neill’s squad for a friendly against Oman next Wednesday and a World Cup qualifier against Serbia five days later.

But Keane is no longer a regular starter for O’Neill’s side and was only used as a late substitute in the Republic’s Euro 2016 games against Sweden and Belgium.

The former Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur star has opted to call it a day following what promises to be an emotional final appearance in front of supporters at the Aviva Stadium.

“Today, I am announcing my decision to retire from International football following the upcoming game with Oman on 31st August in the Aviva Stadium,” Keane said in a statement.

“It has been a wonderful journey for me to have played with the Irish national team for over eighteen years since I made my senior international debut back in 1998. I have enjoyed it all.

“It has also been a great honour, for both me and my family, to have been given the opportunity to captain my country for over 10 years.”

Keane has been Ireland’s talisman for almost two decades and has netted more than three times more goals than second-placed Niall Quinn’s total of 21 on the all-time Ireland goalscorers list.

It has been a remarkable international career for Keane since he first emerged as a potential star in the Ireland team that won the Under-18 European Championship in 1998.

His first Ireland cap came against the Czech Republic in Olomouc in March 1998 and he scored his first senior goal against Malta in October that year.

Keane scored three goals in Ireland’s four games at the 2002 World Cup, including a famous equaliser against Germany.

He became Ireland’s leading goal-scorer during a match against the Faroe Islands in October 2004 when he scored his 22nd and 23rd goals to surpass Quinn’s mark.

His 100th cap came against Argentina in 2010 and he broke goalkeeper Shay Given’s record for most Ireland appearances when he won his 126th cap in June 2013 – marking the occasion with a hat-trick against the Faroe Islands.

“As a young boy growing up in Dublin playing football on the street I could never have imagined the path my life would take – it has exceeded my wildest expectations,” Keane said.

“I have been extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to play for and captain my country – it was my ultimate goal all those years ago and it has been, by far, my greatest achievement.

“I would never have believed all those years ago that I would get the opportunity to play for my country 145 times and to score 67 goals and through it all, I have never stopped chasing the next one!

“I have been on the most incredible journey with the Irish team and fans over the last 18 years and words cannot express how proud I am to be Irish.”