DUBLIN -- Robbie Keane celebrated his national-record 126th appearance for Ireland by grabbing a hat trick in a 3-0 win over Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Friday, taking the Los Angeles Galaxy striker's international tally to 59 goals.
Keane demonstrated his predatory instincts by scoring from close range in the fifth, 56th and 81st minutes at Lansdowne Road to lift the Irish into third place in Group C, above Sweden. Germany is the runaway leader in the pool, with second-place Austria and Ireland five points behind.
"All in all it's been a great occasion for everybody, glad it's over now," Keane told Sky Sports 1. "There was a lot of fuss before the game, the important thing obviously was concentrating on playing football, we did that and got the three points so everybody's happy."
The 32-year-old Keane, who is Ireland's record scorer, moved past goalkeeper Shay Given's 125 caps.
"There was a lot of talk about getting the record caps but for me that was almost in the back of my mind, it was about playing the game and playing in the right manner and getting the right result for the team," Keane said. "For me it was just another game. Certainly it was a special occasion for everybody involved, my family, for me I was just concentrating on the game and getting the result for the lads."
In truth, Ireland could and probably should have won even more comfortably as it dominated possession throughout a game in which keeper David Forde did not have to make a single save of note.
It was a game Ireland simply had to win if it is to stand any chance of overhauling Austria and Sweden in the race for second place in Group C behind runaway leader Germany.
And although Ireland could have been more clinical at times, manager Giovanni Trapattoni will have been happy enough with a win that extended his side's run since their humiliation by the Germans to just one defeat in eight games.
There was an inevitability about the identity of the Republic's match-winner as the match followed the script to the letter.
It was only five minutes old when the again impressive Wes Hoolahan and Jon Walters exchanged passes before the Norwich playmaker fed the ball out to the left, from where Aiden McGeady crossed for Keane to sweep a first-time left-foot shot past keeper Gunnar Nielsen.
The Aviva Stadium rose to acclaim a national hero before settling down in anticipation of the floodgates opening.
Keane might have doubled his tally with 26 minutes gone when he was presented with a one-on-one from a well-worked free kick, but this time Nielsen came out on top.
Walters planted a firm header into the keeper's hands from Marc Wilson's cross seconds later, and Nielsen then tipped a rising effort from Keane over as Ireland pressed for a second goal.
The game was effectively over with 55 minutes played when full back Seamus Coleman, who had been picked out by Hoolahan, curled in a low cross from the right which evaded Walters' lunge but was promptly dispatched by Keane as he slid in behind him.
Central defender Atli Gregersen might have set up an interesting finale when he sent a 77th-minute header just over Forde's bar, but Keane struck again with nine minutes remaining after substitutes James McClean and Conor Sammon had combined to present him with the simplest of chances.
Ireland now faces its two biggest challengers for second spot, Sweden and Austria, in the next two matches in September, and Keane believes those could end up being decisive.
"It's a good thing we have to play Austria and we have to play Sweden, I think our main focus now is on ourselves rather than worry about the opposition," he said. "We know exactly what we have to do, we have to win our games. The two games coming up are massive for us, it's probably make or break.
Information from Press Association and The Associated Press was used in this report.