Ireland boss Martin O’Neill hails ‘inspirational’ Roy Keane

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill says he could not have asked for more from his “inspirational” assistant Roy Keane.

O’Neill invited the former Ireland and Manchester United captain to work with him four years ago and the pair are now battling to guide their team to a second successive major tournament.

There were some eyebrows raised at the time of the appointment, 11 years after Keane had left the World Cup squad in the Far East after a bust-up with then manager Mick McCarthy.

But O’Neill is in no doubt that he picked the right man.

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“Roy has been everything I expected of him when I chose him as the assistant manager,” he said. “I didn’t pretend to know him that well – we had worked together on some programmes before that.

“But he is everything that I expected of him and more besides, an inspirational figure on the field, as he was, a hero to a lot of players who are in the squad at this moment and a big figure, not just for Irish football, but for world football.

“All of those things, he has continued to bring and I couldn’t ask any more of him.”

Midfielder David Meyler added: “He was captain of Manchester United and Ireland for a long time, he’s a winner. When he’s in the changing room, he’s inspiring us to go out and win. Our target in every game is to go out and win the game.

“You couldn’t specifically pick one game where he has said one certain thing, every game is the exact same, and that goes for the manager. They encourage us to go out and perform and once we cross that white line, it’s down to the players to perform.”

Keane’s motivational powers will be put to good use over the next few days with Ireland facing vital matches against Moldova on Friday and Wales next Monday, both live on Sky Sports.

Serbia lead Group D by four points but the Republic are just one point behind Wales who are second with it all to play for over the next two games.