Morrison eager to step in if Keane is ruled out

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The Independent Football

The Republic of Ireland's preparations for next month's European Championship qualifiers against Russia and Switzerland were hampered by two injuries to key players at Lansdowne Road on Tuesday night.

The manager, Brian Kerr, was forced to withdraw Matt Holland early in the 2-1 friendly win over Australia, then saw the Tottenham striker Robbie Keane taken off on a stretcher in first-half injury time with a nasty ankle injury which could keep him out for six weeks.

"Robbie twisted his right ankle and fell just after having a shot," said Kerr. "He is quite sore at the moment, but we won't know how serious it is for a couple of days. We hope he's going to be okay, but it's too early to say yet."

Chris Hughton, Ireland's assistant manager and the Spurs first-team coach is hopeful that the damage is not serious.

Hughton said: "It looks like the ankle ligaments but we won't know for sure until our physio has had a look at it."

Kerr added that Holland had slightly twisted his ankle.

If Keane does not regain fitness, Clinton Morrison is confident he can regain full fitness and fill his role for Ireland. The Birmingham striker reignited his international career by coming off the bench to score the winning goal against Australia in his first competitive game for five months.

Morrison, who had been struggling with a shoulder injury, said: "I'm not fit. I was breathing hard in the last five minutes and I only played for half an hour. It was a long struggle with the shoulder injury but I'm pleased and hopefully things can carry on going as they are."

Morrison had sat out Birmingham's Premiership opener against Tottenham last Saturday so his inclusion in the squad came as something of a surprise.

But his sixth international goal will have boosted the manager who might need new options if Keane is ruled out. Morrison would be a popular and eager replacement in the Irish forward line.

"I love playing in front of the home fans as they're brilliant and they give me a great reception," Morrison said. "They seem to have taken to me and I have taken to them."

Kerr's options have been further strengthened by a man-of-the-match performance from the Nick Colgan on his full debut.

The goalkeeper made a crucial early save from Danny Tiatto then dived bravely at the feet of Mark Viduka, the Leeds United striker, when Ireland were 1-0 down.

Kerr was rewarded for his decision to hand Colgan much-needed experience in case any problems befalls Shay Given, his regular No 1. What made Colgan's fine performance more remarkable was that he is currently playing for Second Division Stockport after leaving Hibernian in search of first-team football.

The keeper admitted he was nervous before the kick-off. "A few weeks ago I wasn't even going to be considered by my club to start the season," he said. "I've been given the opportunity to play three games for Stockport and then I had the opportunity to come down here and make my first start.

"If something were to happen to Shay in the next few weeks, Brian and Chris would not want to throw in somebody who hadn't started the game - so the manager made a fine decision."

Kerr was delighted with his side's comeback win and reserved special praise for Colgan and the second-half substitute Ian Harte.

Kerr's six-match unbeaten record in charge looked in grave danger after Viduka put the impressive visitors ahead in the 49th minute.

A superb Harte free-kick found John O'Shea's head for his 74th-minute equaliser, and an equally precise through-ball allowed Morrison to convert the winner 10 minutes from time.

Kerr said: "Ian Harte's delivery of the ball was very good and it was one of the things that changed the game. Nick was nervous because he hadn't got much experience up to now, but I'm delighted for him.

"The ball fell handily for Viduka and it was a crucial save. It gave everyone a bit of encouragement and momentum at that stage."

But Kerr was less pleased with the first half, in which Keane's chance was Ireland's only major threat.

Australia were unlucky not to lead after Marco Bresciano hammered a long-range effort against the bar in the 14th minute and moments later Tiatto was denied by another fine Colgan save.

Ireland finally took a grip in the second half with O'Shea's first goal for his country and Morrison's winning effort, which trickled into the net.

Kerr added: "The fact that we came back to win a game was good. It is the first time we've been behind recently so it shows we can up our game a bit when the pressure is on.

"Australia played very well as I expected. They seem to have a lot of desire and it is very hard on them that they lost."

Australia's manager Frank Farina had injury worries of his own after the late omission of Harry Kewell because of a recurrence of his Achilles injury.

Farina said: "If he had had another day he would most probably have been okay, but it's a big risk and we don't really want to take that with a player of his calibre."

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