Keane stuns Netherlands to boost Irish confidence

Netherlands 0 Republic of Ireland 1
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The Independent Football

Brian Kerr believes his Republic of Ireland fringe players will return to their clubs brimming with confidence after the impressive 1-0 victory over the Netherlands on Saturday.

A superb 45th-minute strike from the Tottenham striker Robbie Keane, which took him to within one goal of Niall Quinn's scoring record of 21, rounded off an encouraging run of four games in 10 days for Kerr's squad, during which he felt that many of his younger players came of age.

The Hearts defender Alan Maybury now has eight caps, Nottingham Forest's Andy Reid has seven, Graham Barrett of Coventry has five and one more goal, while the Cardiff striker Alan Lee has seven and Sheffield United's Alan Quinn has nudged his way up to four.

Those players could be needed during Ireland's forthcoming World Cup 2006 qualifying campaign if injuries and suspensions rear their ugly heads, and if they are called upon they will be more prepared than they were a fortnight ago.

"Any player who played in that match on our side will go back to his club for pre-season and feel more confident about himself - or at least they should do," said Kerr after his team's win in the Amsterdam ArenA of Ajax.

"I am more glad for the young players, the likes of Alan Quinn and Graham Barrett, who have had hard seasons in terms of making the breakthrough. Graham had a good end to the season at Coventry but he is a fringe player, yet you looked at him last night and he looked very much an international.

"Alan Lee missed a lot of the season because of injury but looked strong, and Andy Reid has moved on. Alan Maybury before these two weeks would have been seen to have been bashing away in Scotland without major respect, so it is fantastic for them and that's how it should be. Reid played three games in this spell, Maybury played three and a half, Quinn played two and Barrett played two, they are the bonuses."

If Kerr has a full squad to choose from come September, the likelihood is that only Reid has a realistic chance of figuring in the opening qualifying games at home to Cyprus and away in Switzerland, as John O'Shea, Roy Keane, Kevin Kilbane and Damien Duff will all return.

At least Kerr also learned some good lessons about his regular players, none more so than the fact that Newcastle's Andy O'Brien is the man to partner the captain Kenny Cunningham at the heart of the defence. Kerr added: "We'll take a bit of time to absorb these games and the options for the future and come August and September we'll have a few more options than we had, and a few more experienced options at that.

"We had one match in Dublin and three outside and they were all difficult in their own way because of the opposition, the surroundings and the apparent lack of depth of the squad. The style of last night's performance is what we are looking for home and away."

Goal: Keane (45) 0-1.

Netherlands (4-4-2): Van der Sar; Bouma (Van Hooijdonk, 84), Van Bronckhorst, Reiziger (Heitinga, h-t), Stam; Cocu, Davids (Robben, 66), Sneijder (Seedorf, h-t), Van der Vaart; Kluivert (Van der Meyde, h-t), Van Nistelrooy (Makaay, 66), Seedorf (Bosvelt, 66). Substitutes not used: Waterreus, Westerveld, De Boer, Zenden, Overmars.

Republic of Ireland (4-4-2): Given; Finnan, Maybury, Cunningham, O'Brien; Holland, Barrett, Alan Quinn, Morrison (Lee 83); Robbie Keane, Andy Reid (Doyle 88). Substitutes not used: Thompson, Doherty, Rowlands, Colgan, Clarke, McPhail, McGeady.

Attendance: 43,000.

Referee: M Dean (Wirral).