Monday, June 12, 2006

ODE TO ROY

Laoch! Those of you who didn't use the Setanta Cup ad breaks as refill opportunities will have learnt a couple of new Irish words for your laziness. Legend! Loathe him or merely dislike him; love him or like him; there is not a football follower on this island whose radar he hasn't crossed.

There are many more eminent football commentators who will bestow accolades at the shrine of Keano's career. I am a fan, not an expert; but I don't eat prawns. I've never turned to the left on boarding a plane, but I think footballers at the highest eitlean of the game should.

It was around this time 4 years ago that our nation was divided by the inner strength of the man; nothing I say here will convert any of those well-hardened attitudes. We've all had 4 years to form our opinions and they've been well thought out by now. But the event taught all of us a great deal about the man behind the professional footballer and for that alone he earned a huge amount of respect from this fan. But that was off the field.

From humble beginnings at Cobh Ramblers [no offence intended], he took the stairs to the top floor with club and country. Nothing new there I'll grant you. What made a player who wasn't gifted with the balance, skill and trickery of Zizou, Ronaldinho, Maradona, Cruyff and Pele fit to share a sentence with football's fantasia? Many will say drive, determination and an unswerving will to win. But that's not what does it for me.

Temporarily deprived of my power to turn back time I cannot make faultless comparisons between the game's glitterati. I do know this however; the majority of fans of the beautiful game, and I include Dermot Keely in this, will nominate Edson Arantes di Nascimento as the greatest footballer the world has witnessed. And if you follow that thread you will follow the great one's footballing philosophy.[El Rico may be a bit wary of the Brazilian's current ability to render anything he touches rock solid, however].

Pele believes fervently in the team game; wherein the outstanding ability of any member [oops, sorry] is used to supplement the overall capability of the team. He also ardently espouses football as a simple game, which it is when you strip it back to it's basics. He always did the right thing; passed when a pass was the best option, only indulged his dribbling skills when it was necessary to hold the ball up; in short whatever was best for the team.

These are exactly the attributes Keane brought to any team he graced. He kept the game simple, collected the ball, passed the ball, made himself available to receive it again. In the clips you see over the next few days notice how often he gets close to the man in possession in order to receive a simple short pass... of course he had to work his 'nads off to get there, but this unselfish work for the team was his oft unseen hallmark.

We'll all have our own special recollections of Keane Moments throughout the years, and they'll no doubt span the best and worst aspects of his total dedication to his team, for he was no angel. Once he had conquered his early demons there were few more dedicated to the cause, he was the one you want on your side; not playing against you. His hunger and desire lifted all around him, a man for the trenches. Somehow I can't see the dugout suiting him, but best of luck with it Roy, and thanks for making me feel proud to be Irish. KEANO, LAOCH!

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