Martin O’Neill has admitted he could take Republic of Ireland skipper Robbie Keane to Euro 2016 even if he does not make it into the squad.
The 35-year-old LA Galaxy striker has returned to his club after failing to shake off a niggling knee injury and will play no part in Tuesday night’s friendly against Slovakia at the Aviva Stadium, having also missed Friday night’s 1-0 victory over Switzerland.
Keane, Ireland’s record scorer with 67 goals in 143 appearances for his country, will do everything within his power to make the 23 for what seems certain to be his final major tournament as a player, but manager O’Neill may consider including him in the party anyway.
The 64-year-old said: “I haven’t thought about that, I must admit, but I think Robbie would be thinking he would want to try to make the 23 first and foremost, and then we will see how things develop after that.
“But he has been very influential in the group, he’s been very supportive the whole time he has been here and even when he hasn’t started in matches, he’s still with the team, so, yes, that is a thought, I must admit.”
Keane, who is currently studying for his coaching badges, has revealed previously that he would love one day to be a part of the Ireland coaching set-up.
Keane will not retire any time soon
However, he has been equally adamant that he will not hang up his boots until he is convinced he has nothing left to offer and although his legs may not now move quite as quickly as they did at the start of his 18-year senior international career, he still knows where the net is.
His current injury is a concern with the finals less than three months away, although O’Neill is convinced there is no lasting damage.
He said: “He [Keane] thought it might have been a little bit of a knock and of course when that’s got going away immediately, then you start getting a bit of a concern.
“He feels as if, at worst, he might just get it ‘scoped and have a little look around to see what it is, and in this day and age, that doesn’t take too long. He’ll let us know what happening in the next couple of days, but no, I don’t think he is overly concerned.”