Keane revels in Irish spirit
Skipper Robbie Keane is confident the harmony within the Ireland camp can fuel their bid for Euro 2012 glory.
Ireland's qualification for the tournament in Poland and Ukraine ended a 10-year wait for a place at a major finals after their trip to the 2002 World Cup in the Far East. That campaign blew up spectacularly before a ball had been kicked when Roy Keane's furious bust-up with manager Mick McCarthy in Saipan led to his premature departure.
Despite Keane's absence, they very nearly made the quarter-finals, and they will hope to go one better this time around with no similar distractions. The current captain said: "I keep saying it, but you take things for granted when you are younger, you always think you are going to be in every tournament."
He continued: "It certainly does feel different. There has always been a great team spirit in the Irish camp, but for some reason this has been a little bit different.
"The group of players, how well the players get on with each other, has been brilliant. There have been no little niggles, which you usually get in tournaments like this when you are together for a long time. Obviously 10 years ago there were a couple, but so far it's been good."
Ireland's preparations have been ongoing for more than a fortnight now and will continue on Monday when they play their final friendly against Hungary in Budapest.
They go into the game defending an impressive 13-match unbeaten run, and while an extension of that run would provide them with the perfect send-off to Poland, simply getting through the 90 minutes with all 23 squad members intact will be equally important.
Acutely aware of the misfortune which has befallen England defender Gary Cahill in recent days, Keane knows exactly what is at stake.
He said: "I know at the back of your mind, you try your best, but as soon as you are on the pitch, it's very difficult. If there is a tackle there to be won, it's just normal that you go in and try to win it. Of course the last thing anybody wants, and certainly the players and me, is for anybody to get injured.
"To miss a major tournament like this after all the hard work we have done over the last few years, would be terrible for any player. I feel for the players, people like Cahill in his first major tournament, who miss out with an injury."
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