Paul McGrath full of praise for that man Richard Keogh
Two of Paul McGrath's former clubs will do battle in the Championship play-off final and while he might feel more of an affinity towards Aston Villa due to the years he spent there, he's been really impressed with one Derby County player in particular.
McGrath has praised the performances of a fellow English-born, Ireland international defender as Richard Keogh has been a revelation for the Rams, not only in the play-off second leg comeback but throughout the season.
Having been named Derby's Players' Player of the Season, Keogh showed up when it counted in a big way on Wednesday night when he confidently waded out of defence and into midfield, starting a move which resulted in Mason Mount's goal before he directly set up the winner for Jack Marriott with five minutes left in the game.
Amid all the praise this season for the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt, Keogh showed that he's got some skills of his own and he's been showered with praise by Republic of Ireland legend, McGrath.
"Richard was absolutely fantastic for the whole game and I don't know how he found himself up in that half of the pitch but what a lay-on!" McGrath told SportsJOE.
Keogh set up the Rams' winner https://t.co/WrgOM9YBy5
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) May 16, 2019
"He deserves all the praise that he's getting. He's some defender and he looked like some forward against Leeds.
"People might say he should be given more freedom to play out from the back for Ireland but I don't think it's as easy as switching players and moving them around the pitch. Richard knows what he does best and that's defending.
"Sure, he goes for a wander sometimes and the odd time it works out but when it doesn't work out and he's caught out of position, he'll be criticised so it's a fine line but one Richard knows himself.
"I think he knows when to go and not to go. He's absolutely brilliant. I'm thrilled with the way he's come on. I think Mick will do a great job of gelling the team into a cohesive unit, particularly defensively with Richard at the heart."
McGrath, who made 83 appearances for the Irish team, is a big fan of the current plan to have Stephen Kenny succeed Mick McCarthy in the Republic of Ireland management set-up.
McCarthy has been tasked with steadying the ship before Kenny takes over next year following Martin O'Neill's spell in the dugout.
"I think that's a fabulous idea," McGrath said. "Mick knows the ins and outs of the team. He's a very qualified coach and quick-witted. I'm delighted to see him back in Irish football. He's done a tremendous job and will have everything prepared for Stephen."
One of the toughest challenges facing McCarthy ahead of the upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers is the Seamus Coleman/Matt Doherty dilemma.
McCarthy has already tried to include both Coleman and Doherty in the same side but remains unconvinced so as it stands, the plan is to just start one or the other.
"I think that's a difficult one," McGrath admitted. "They're two fantastic footballers. Seamus has a couple of good years left in him. Matt has that natural energy. It's got to be worked out. I think they tried it in one of their last matches but you can't judge it on one game. I think if they tried it over three or four matches, they'd get a better understanding on whether it'd work.
"Qualification is our priority now and it's difficult to try these experiments when you're trying to get results because if they don't come off then it's the manager's fault.
"Thank God Mick is the manager because he is more than capable of figuring it out."
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