Ireland hoping veteran duo are fit

23 March 2011 05:00

Marco Tardelli is convinced Republic of Ireland stalwarts Robbie Keane and Richard Dunne will be able to lead the fight for precious Euro 2012 qualifying points against Macedonia.

Keane, currently on loan at West Ham, has managed only a few minutes of competitive football for his club since shaking off a calf injury, while Dunne has been missing from the Aston Villa side for the last three weeks with a shoulder problem.

However, both men trained in Malahide on Wednesday under the watchful gaze of manager Giovanni Trapattoni and his assistant Tardelli, and the Italian duo are increasingly confident that both will be ready to go into battle for their country at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening.

Trapattoni said on Tuesday Keane, Ireland's all-time leading goalscorer with 45, would be able to play for an hour, but Tardelli was even more optimistic on Wednesday when asked about the 30-year-old's prospects.

He said: "For me, the whole match. Robbie looked very well in training and also I saw the match against Stoke, when he played 20 minutes. But now he has improved and he is ready for us."

Just how Keane's general fitness equates to the match fitness he will need against the Macedonians remains to be seen, with that brief FA Cup quarter-final cameo against Stoke his only action since February 6.

However, his talismanic status means Trapattoni is happy to entrust him with the task of leading his team from the front for as long as he can alongside Kevin Doyle, with the likes of Shane Long and Jonathan Walters waiting in the wings to take over.

Another Republic forward, Newcastle's Leon Best, was withdrawn from the squad on Wednesday afternoon due to an ankle injury.

Dunne's presence at the back could prove equally important, particularly in the absence of goalkeeper Shay Given and full-back John O'Shea through injury.

Trapattoni is already mulling over his defensive options with Kevin Foley in the running to take over from O'Shea, although with Ciaran Clark also competing with old head Kevin Kilbane for the left-back berth, he needs all the experience he can get.

Source: PA