By John Fallon
Roy Keane has challenged Ireland’s players to overcome one last obstacle in their bid to reach a first World Cup since 2002.
Martin O’Neill’s assistant, speaking after the squad’s second training session of the week in the build-up the first leg of the play-off against Denmark on Saturday, is adamant Ireland will face a pressure-cooker situation in Copenhagen.
As fears grow over the fitness of Jeff Hendrick, who will undergo a scan on his injured glute muscle, Keane insists Ireland must embrace rather than fear the occasion.
Noting the threat of Christen Eriksen, as O’Neill has, the Corkman has called for maximum concentration from the players in the away leg ahead of the return in Dublin next Tuesday.
“When there’s been big questions put to the players, they’ve come up with the answers,” Keane said.
“They’ve bounced back from disappointing results against Scotland and Serbia in the last two campaigns.
“They’ll need to do that again on Saturday because we’ll be under pressure, under the cosh and challenged in different ways.
“Denmark have a lot of skilful players, good options going forward and Eriksen is a really big player for them.
“They’re big and strong, have good experience, energy and legs in the team. It will be tough.”
Keane is adamant he can’t get unduly concerned about Hendrick and his Burnley teammate Stephen Ward sitting out training for the second day in a row.
“Stephen Ward is looking after his knee a little but so new update really and I’m not overly worried about Jeff unless he doesn’t train on Thursday or Friday.”
Meanwhile, Keane was non-committal on his future in the post.
Although Martin O’Neill has verbally agreed to remain on for the next European Championship campaign, news on his sidekick’s status remains unclear.
“We can discuss all that after these couple of games,” he asserted.
“It’s not really important. I’ve enjoyed the job since I’ve come in, but it’s not an issue at the moment.
“All thoughts about club management are on the back burner at the moment.”