Keane out to leave Lansdowne Road on a high
Republic of Ireland captain Robbie Keane is determined his side 'put on a good show' as they prepare to make an emotional farewell to Lansdowne Road.
The antiquated, dilapidated Dublin stadium stages its last football international tonight before it is demolished and a new £260million, 50,000-seat venue is erected in its place.
The unglamorous San Marino are the visitors for a Euro 2008 qualifier, although it is hoped a few goals will be scored to at least give the ground a fitting send-off.
Ireland certainly need a win in their qualifying campaign after taking just one point from their opening three matches.
The incentives are certainly there for the Republic to add to San Marino's woes as they have so far lost 13-0 and 7-0 to Germany and the Czech Republic respectively in their opening two matches.
'This game means a lot,' said Ireland's all-time leading scorer Keane. 'It wasn't that long ago I was watching the team and dreaming that one day I'd play at Lansdowne Road.
'So to play in what will be the last game for a couple of years will be very emotional for everybody, not just the players, but also the supporters.
'Hopefully we can put on a good show.'
When what memories he would take with him of the ground, his replies were markedly different.
'I remember coming here to watch the England game when there was all that trouble, but I soon scarpered when that happened!' joked the Tottenham striker.
'For me, the main one is the Holland game when we won to qualify for the 2002 World Cup finals.
'The atmosphere was one of the best I've ever experienced, along with our game here last month against the Czech Republic. It was incredible.'
It is the fans who have clearly made Lansdowne Road the special stadium it has become over the years, as Keane explained.
'When you go out on the pitch and you hear the crowd - and I know it's an old cliche to say they're a 12th man - but they certainly do help when you are out there,' he added.
As was the case in the 1-1 draw with the Czechs just days after the humiliating 5-2 defeat by Cyprus when the supporters could have added to the widespread condemnation of the players but instead got behind the side.
'It meant more because of what happened in Cyprus,' remarked Keane. 'We didn't do ourselves any favours in Cyprus, and we accept that. As players we knew we had to put things right.
'But they stole the show. They were singing before the game, all the way through, and when the Czechs scored their goal, they were singing again. It really does help the players.'
But Keane will not be too sorry to see the back of Lansdowne Road in terms of its facilities, which is in contrast to their temporary home for the next two years of Croke Park.
'I'm not going to lie to you. Of course it's great to play in nice stadiums,' said Keane. 'I've always wanted to play at Croke Park, but I never thought it would be football, so it's something I'm really looking forward to.
'If we want to improve as a country then we need to move on with a good stadium and a good pitch, and Croke Park has all that.'