Football/Soccer

In The Irish News April 21 1998: Teenager Robbie Keane set for first Ireland start

Robbie Keane celebrating was to become a very familiar sight in Republic of Ireland colours.

TEENAGE Wolves striker Robbie Keane will become the second youngest player to start a full international for the Republic of Ireland when Mick McCarthy’s team face twice world champions Argentina in Dublin tomorrow.

McCarthy gave Keane, who will not be 18 until July, the exciting news yesterday that he will partner his schoolboy idol, Niall Quinn, in attack. Keane won his first cap as a second-half substitute in the 2-1 defeat by the Czech Republic in Olomouc last month.

Now he is set for a place in the record books just behind former Tottenham defender Jimmy Holmes, who was four months younger when making his debut in 1972.

McCarthy has handed the captaincy back to Aston Villa’s Steve Staunton, with Wimbledon’s Kenny Cunningham – who wore the armband against the Czechs for the first time – doubtful with a groin injury.

The manager said: “I’ve never been afraid to give youngsters a chance. It is fundamental to the future progress of the squad.

“I won’t be able to name my team until tomorrow because of a few injury niggles, but I’ve decided on Robbie and I’ve also decided he had to know now so that there is time to digest it.

“This is a big test for him, but he’s a very talented player who can do things others only dream of attempting. And thinking about the game for an extra 24 hours won’t affect him.”

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WILLIE ANDERSON’S first objective in his second stint as Dungannon’s director of rugby will be to bring several top overseas players back to Stevenson Park, he said last night.

London Irish duo Mark McCall and David Humphreys are top of the list and Anderson, handed a three year deal with the Tyrone club yesterday, claimed both are thinking about returning to the All-Ireland League next season.

“I have spoken to both players and they are seriously considering moving home,” he said.

“Obviously, a lot will depend on the Ulster Branch and the IRFU, but certainly there is a major opportunity to get some of these guys back.

“The security they would have here is much greater than they would have at London Irish.”

Anderson’s return to Dungannon will be a crucial factor in whether some of the top exiles do come back, but he also insisted he would be looking to strengthen the Dungannon squad with players from around the province as well as from overseas. Having left the club in November 1996 to become coach of London Irish, Anderson said he was now “looking forward to a fresh challenge” after his period at Sunbury ended in his sacking two months ago.

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ARMAGH, whose clubs include Crossmaglen Rangers, were last night the first Ulster county board to officially discuss the surprise weekend developments on Rule 21.

County secretary Patrick Nugent pointed out that the gathering was a scheduled monthly meeting but agreed the mooted abolition of the security forces ban would be high on the agenda.

The Antrim county executive, meanwhile, will discuss the issue at its monthly meeting tomorrow evening.

Like a number of Ulster officials contacted yesterday, Armagh secretary Nugent said the abolition call had been “totally sprung” on Congress by GAA president Joe McDonagh.

Nugent, however, yesterday refused to make any immediate comment on the weekend’s events.

Reports from Dublin said that Taoiseach Bertie Ahern had got an assurance from the UK authorities that the abolition of Rule 21 would be followed by an immediate withdrawal of the British Army from the Crossmaglen ground.

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IRISH trio Joe Swail, Terry Murphy and Jason Prince begin their World Championship campaigns today at the Crucible.

Derry’s Murphy will play both sessions of his match against number five seed Peter Ebdon today starting this morning and playing to a finish this evening.

His compatriot Jason Prince begins his game against Darren Morgan this afternoon while Belfast’s Joe Swail will play one of the tournament favourites Ronnie O’Sullivan in the first session of their game tonight.

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