Keane applies gloss to Ireland's success

Republic of Ireland 3 Denmark 0
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The Independent Online

There was no Danish dynamite in Dublin last night, the woeful Scandinavians managing barely a whimper, let alone a bang, as the Republic of Ireland easily extended an unbeaten home run stretching back almost two years. The fireworks all came from men in green shirts, notably Leeds United's Robbie Keane, who scored a cracking goal, and the Blackburn winger Damien Duff, whose virtuoso performance had Ireland's former manager Eion Hand making comparisons with George Best.

Of those candidates hoping to build up further credits towards a place in the Irish World Cup squad, Crystal Palace's ebullient striker Clinton Morrison was lively, finishing on a high with the third goal in stoppage time.

Overall, it was another satisfactory night for Mick McCarthy's team, taking into account the unexpectedly feeble nature of the opposition. Denmark, who won their World Cup qualifying roup without losing a game, were so poor that at one stage the crowd of 42,000 began whimsically cheering their every touch in the vain hope of encouraging them to make a game of it.

What was clear was that the visitors missed their midfield enforcers Stig Tofting of Bolton and Everton's Thomas Gravesen far more than Ireland suffered from the absence of Roy Keane. Mark Kinsella stood in capably for the Manchester United captain and his Charlton club-mate Dean Kiely again proved a valuable understudy for Shay Given. But Gary Kelly at right-back and Kenny Cunningham in the centre of defence were less secure on the rare occasions that Denmark threatened.

Perhaps the visitors were shocked by the condition of the pitch, used for a rugby union international four days earlier, and always likely to make the most carefully constructed pass look silly. Ireland, who have grown used to it down the years, coped much better in dominating from the start.

Morrison, playing from the off for the first time, had three early chances, getting each effort on target without managing to put sufficient power behind any of them.

The pressure told in the 19th minute. Duff, who had been tormenting the right side of the Danish defence, turned beautifully and then twisted outside Martin Laursen before crossing for the adventurous Ian Harte to head his eighth international goal.

The home side became a little ragged until half-time, offering Kiely the chance to show his worth, saving superbly from Dennis Rommedahl as Jesper Gronkjaer's crossfield ball caught Harte dreaming of a summer in Japan.

The next serious lapse of concentration, 10 minutes into the second half, cost the Danes a goal. The whole team stood and watched as Steve Staunton rolled a free-kick forward to Robbie Keane, who took one touch, looked up and hit a stunning 30-yard shot into the top corner of the net past the substitute goalkeeper, Aberdeen's Peter Kjaer.

McCarthy was confident enough to introduce a clutch of substitutes, including the debutant goalkeeper Nick Colgan of Hibernian. In the final minute, two of the other replacements, Colin Healy and David Connolly, set up Morrison for the goal his endeavours deserved.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (4-4-2): Kiely (Charlton); Kelly (Leeds), Cunningham (Wimbledon), Staunton (Aston Villa), Harte (Leeds); McAteer (Sunderland), Kinsella (Charlton), Holland (Ipswich), Duff (Blackburn); Keane (Leeds), Morrison (Crystal Palace). Substitutions: Healy (Coventry) for Kinsella, 64; Colgan (Hibernian) for Kiely, 66; Reid (Millwall) for McAteer, 66; Connolly (Wimbledon) for Keane, 77; Dunne (Man City) for Duff, 84.

DENMARK (4-4-2): Sorensen (Sunderland); Rytter (Wolfsburg), Henriksen (Panathinaikos), Laursen (Milan), Heintze (PSV Eindhoven); Poulsen (FC Copenhagen), Nielsen (Watford), Steen Nielsen (Malmo), Gronkjaer (Chelsea); Rommedahl (PSV); Sand (Schalke). Substitutions: Kjaer (Aberdeen) for Sorensen, h-t; Madsen (PSV) for A Nielsen, h-t; Lovenkrands (Rangers) for Rommedahl, 69; Jensen (Man City) for Heintze, 82.

Referee: B Lawlor (Wales).

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