Long hails 'extraordinary' Keane

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Shane Long led the tributes to Republic of Ireland skipper Robbie Keane after watching him write himself into the history books with a match-winning display in Macedonia.

Keane became the first player from Great Britain and Ireland to score 50 senior international goals when he blasted the Republic into an eighth-minute lead in Skopje on Saturday night, and his nerveless 37th-minute strike made sure of three precious Euro 2012 qualifying points.

The Reading frontman said: "It's extraordinary when you look at it - and he hasn't played that many games as well. I think it's one in two, and close to that ratio is a great record to have in international football."

He added: "It will take some beating.

"He's brilliant. He turns up to every game he can. Every game he's called upon, he will do his best to be there. He played with half a leg, really, his groin was gone. It shows the desire he has. You don't score 51 goals for your country without that passion."

It is a measure of Keane's commitment to the Ireland cause that he insisted on the eve of Saturday night's game he would play, despite having limped out of the final training session in Malahide a day earlier.

He was equally adamant that reaching his personal landmark was of secondary importance to securing the victory his side needed to maintain pace with Slovakia and Russia at the top of Group B, but he was delighted to have managed both despite the effect his exertions had on his body.

Asked about his injury, Keane said: "It's a bit sore now. I had to get an injection before the game, but it's okay now.

"The last 15 minutes I started to feel it a bit. It's a little bit sore now, but who cares? The other teams won as well, so it was important for us to stay amongst the group, and we did that.

"I thought we were superb. It will probably go down as a great team performance."

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Robbie Keane
Shane Long

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