Commentary

Robbie Keane will retire as the best to wear Ireland's green jersey

Robbie Keane will play one more game for Ireland against Oman in Dublin next Wednesday and then retire from international soccer.

In a career that has spanned 145 games over 18 years -- the last six bouncing back and forth between MLS with the LA Galaxy and his international commitments -- Keane has scored 67 goals for Ireland. To put those 67 goals in perspective, only Hungarians Ferenc Puskas and Sandor Kocsis and Germans Miroslav Klose and Gerd Muelleramong Europeans have scored more goals.

Keane issued a statement in announcing his impending retirement:

"Today, I am announcing my decision to retire from international football following the upcoming game with Oman on Aug. 31 in the Aviva Stadium.

"It has been a wonderful journey for me to have played with the Irish national team for over 18 years since I made my senior international debut back in 1998. I have enjoyed it all.''

"It has also been a great honor for both me and my family to have been given the opportunity to captain my country for over 10 years. 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.

"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. Each and every time I put on the green jersey, it is such an honor."

It's hard to rank Keane in comparison to other Irish stars. Liam Brady, Paul McGrath and Roy Keane all won PFA awards as the top players in the English Premier League or old First Division.

But no one has played as many games or scored as many goals from Ireland as has Robbie Keane. Probably his most famous goal was the tying goal against eventual runner-up Germany in stoppage time that gave Ireland a 1-1 tie at the 2002 World Cup.

It was a classic goal: Keane, the poacher, racing on to Niall Quinn's flick header from a desperation ball played from the Irish half and beating two German defenders and then keeper Oliver Kahn. The goal -- one of three at the 2002 World Cup -- would be enough to send the Irish through to the knockout phase.

"The atmosphere, the adrenaline and the buzz from the fans that night is something I will always remember," Keane said of the game at Kashima Stadium in Japan.

The 2002 World Cup turned out to be Ireland's only appearance at the World Cup finals during Keane's career. (It shouldn't be forgotten Keane also scored in the 2009 World Cup playoff game against France, which qualified on a goal scored after Thierry Henry's blatant handball.)

Keane played for Ireland at the 2012 and 2016 European Championships. He was only a bit player in France in June and at the age of 36 is approaching the end of his career.

Tributes came pouring in on Wednesday after Keane announced his decision. In a long statement, Ireland President Michael D. Higgins said Keane "has always conducted himself with great dignity and has been a wonderful ambassador for Ireland."

As RTE Sports commentator Rob Wright noted, players like John Giles, Brady, McGrath and Roy Keane might have had more talent, but no one could touch Robbie Keane in terms of commitment to the Irish cause.

1 comment about "Robbie Keane will retire as the best to wear Ireland's green jersey".
  1. Ric Fonseca, August 26, 2016 at 3:57 p.m.

    Betcha he'll be "transitioning" to a head coaching gig with MLS, probably with the Galaxy, but I sure hope not with the new LAFC!!!

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