Ireland's record goalscorer reflects on a glittering international career ahead of final game in a green shirt
Robbie Keane reflected on a glittering international career at the Republic of Ireland's training base in Abbotstown this afternoon and says being given made Ireland captain a decade ago was the defining moment in his career.
Keane will play his last game in an Ireland shirt against Oman on Wednesday night at the Aviva Stadium and this afternoon shared his feelings about retiring as Ireland's record international goal-scorer.
"It's definitely been an emotional week for me," he told members of the press. "It's a bit surreal, to be honest with you. As I said in my statement, I dreaded this day for a long, long time. It's come to this now where I believe it's the right time for me.
"I certainly have mixed emotions about it. It's been an absolutely wonderful journey that I have enjoyed every minute of. To the fans and everyone who had been very supportive over the last 18 years, it's been an incredible journey and it's something I'll never ever forget.
"I'll continue to support the Irish team in a different capacity now... Wednesday night is going to be very emotional for me and my family.
"I'm not one of these people to reflect on anything until it's finished.
"Come Wednesday or Thursday, when that curtain finally closes I'll look back and say 'You know what, you did alright, Rob'.
"The defining moment of my career when I was given the captain's armband at 26 years of age. It changed my perception of how you deal with things. Before that, my talking was done on the pitch.
"With that comes responsibilities and the responsibilities I had as captain. That for me was the defining moment of my career. I learned how to deal with people and learned that you have to be a role model on and off the pitch. I think that was a big moment for me."
Robbie Keane during his first year as Ireland captain in 2006. Image: ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan
Keane, 36, began his career with Wolves as a teenager and shared some of his experiences as a young inexperienced boy thrust into the life of a professional footballer.
"You have to understand when you're a young footballer player... You probably all have kids 15, 16, 17 years of age. I just turned 17 and I made my debut for the international team.
"I played for Wolves a month after my 17th birthday. I got thrown into the deep end. I had no clue how to speak to the media, I had no training. You've got people who look after you and try to protect you but in terms of how you speak to people and sometimes that wasn't positive because they hold you back from what you really want to say."
He continued by saying that dealing with criticism over the years was simply part of the game.
"You can't please everyone... But that's football. You're going to get criticized sometimes, but all I ever did was want to do my best for the country. I think I've done that. I've got no regrets."
The Tallaght native spent his career at a number of different clubs, but says that the Ireland jersey was always the one that 'fit best'.
"I’ve read a lot of stuff about being confident and cocky and I think there is a fine line between both," he added.
"I was always a confident player but if I wasn’t a confident player and I didn’t have that brashness about me, I don’t think I would ever have scored 67 goals.
"People misinterpreted cockiness and confidence. I was confident coming into the squad as I belonged here and that was from Day 1. Did I ever imagine that I would get 145 caps when I was growing up?
"When I was at Wolves, I remember people retiring at 32 years of age and I was thinking 'if I get to that age then I’ll be delighted’. Here I am still playing at 36. It’s been an unbelievable career with the international team.
"I played for many teams and put many jerseys on, but the Irish one always seemed to fit me best. For me, it was a comfort blanket to come back with the national team. It’s been my second home and I’ve had a lot of emotions during my career. You have all been there and grown up with me.
"When my father died, it was very tough but three days later I was on a plane going to play a game. When my son was born, two hours later I left the hospital in LA to come back and play for Ireland.
"I think that suggests to you that Ireland was always a very special place in my heart and it will continue to be that for a long time."
Looking forward after an extremely positive European Championships campaign for Martin O'Neill's side in France this summer, Keane says there is a lot to be excited about in the years ahead.
"I think the future is very bright. Certainly, if you look at the display in the Euros, it would certainly suggest that. We have a fantastic manager and a fantastic backroom staff. We've got great players with an unbelievable desire to win and an unbelievable team spirit. I think we'll be fine."