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31st Aug 2016

“It’s a massive honour being with Ireland whether I play or not” – Keiren Westwood on his “brothers”

Conan Doherty

Keiren Westwood used to get criticised.

Some people wondered how much the 31-year-old was really bothered about playing for Ireland. There was a school of thought that suggested he wouldn’t be picked to go to the Euros either over a rumoured strained relationship with Martin O’Neill.

However, in France, off the back of his best season at peak form, he sat on the bench and didn’t play one minute. He made no fuss about it either.

He was there if his country needed him. He’s here again if his country needs him.

The Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper is just a Republic international who loves the opportunity to play at this level. He’s just a team mate who loves the camaraderie in this squad.

Darren Randolph and Keiren Westwood dejected 26/6/2016

He had another terrific season in the Championship and the clamour for his inclusion in the Irish team has only intensified. He played the first 45 minutes against Oman and the battle is on between him and Darren Randolph again ahead of Monday’s game in Serbia.

“I had a good season last year and that’s all you can do as a professional, to do well at club level and hopefully get recognised at international level,” Westwood told SportsJOE after Wednesday’s 4-0 win.

“I’ll always work my hardest and it’s always a massive honour coming away [with Ireland] regardless of whether I play or not. I’m very proud to be part of this whole set up with all these lads.

“You probably hear people banging on but this is like a lot of brothers in this squad. It’s real, real together and that takes us a long way.”

Westwood was also humbled to be part of such a momentous occasion as Robbie Keane bid farewell to Ireland.

“I didn’t have much to do, to be fair,” was his assessment of his own performance which drew one first-minute save and then a lot of spectating. It was good game to watch though, admiring the Tallaght legend in his last stand for his country.

“It’s bittersweet [to be involved in a game like this],” Westwood said. “You can’t knock Robbie whatsoever, his record speaks for itself and he’ll live long in the memory, I know that.

“I’ve seen enough of him at training to not want to come up against him at club level.”

On transfer deadline day, it was also bittersweet for Ireland’s brightest talents. 24-year-old pair and former St. Kevin’s footballers Jeff Hendrick and Robbie Brady lit France up this summer and both deserved a big move to a big club. Only one made it to the Premier League though.

“Robbie Brady’s got a fantastic left foot, I think we’ve seen that night – he just whipped the ball into the stanchion from outside the box from a free kick. I’ll be disappointed if he’s not got a move,” the ‘keeper admitted. “But, knowing Robbie and knowing the lad he is, he’ll get his head down, work hard and he’ll play well for Norwich, I know that.

“I’m delighted for Jeff [Hendrick], absolutely delighted for him. He deserves it – he was fantastic at the Euros, one of our better players by far.”

The new GAA Hour football podcast is here. Listen to Colm Parkinson, Senan Connell, and Barry Cahill dissect a classic between Dublin and Kerry. Subscribe here on iTunes.

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