As we enter into the final furlongs of the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup qualifying campaign, the Boys in Green are in very good shape.
Having gone unbeaten thus far, Martin O’Neill’s side are second in Group D, behind Serbia – who they face next week – only on goal difference. This weekend, they will travel to Tbilisi to take on Georgia.
If they can collect six points from the two games, they will be on the verge of automatic qualification.
And while it’s a long way off yet, thoughts have already turned to Russia next June and who could be on the plane and there could yet be an unfamiliar face amongst the traveling party.
Will Keane, formerly of Manchester United, has told The Times he still hopes of forcing his way into O’Neill’s reckoning for the tournament, should his side qualify.
“They have some good strikers, but I was on their radar before the injury. I am an outside bet but if I can get back scoring goals I would like to think I have a chance.”
Keane, now 24, was born in Stockport but qualifies to play for Ireland through his father. He represented England multiple times at underage levels.
He progresesed up the ranks at Manchester United having signed at their famed academy aged just 11. He was very highly thought of at the club and eventually broke into the senior squad. He made just a handful of appearances before his torrid luck with injuries began.
Repeated knee issues have hampered his development massively but will finally be back on the pitch soon with his new club Hull City.
Keane, twin brother of Everton defender Michael, admitted to Paul Hirst that the prospect of playing in a World Cup has been a serious motivation of late.
“It is every player’s dream to play in the World Cup. Ireland are doing well in their group so they might make it. If I ended up playing in a World Cup, all this hard work would be worthwhile.”
Much like James Wilson, the striker was on a very impressive trajectory for much of his youth career but has yet been unable to convert his talent into on-pitch performances.
He will face extensive competition for a spot in the team with the emergence of Seanie Maguire over the last 18 months leading to incessant calls for a senior debut. Cillian Sheridan, Kevin Doyle and Adam Rooney have all also been on the fringes of the team in recent years.