Republic of Ireland skipper Robbie Keane has announced his retirement from international football after next Wednesday’s friendly against Oman.
The 36-year-old LA Galaxy striker will call time on his 18-year Ireland career having made a record 145 senior appearances for his country and scored 67 goals, more than three times more than his nearest rival.
Keane said in a statement: “Today, I am announcing my decision to retire from International football following the upcoming game with Oman on 31st August in the Aviva Stadium.
“It has been a wonderful journey for me to have played with the Irish national team for over eighteen years since I made my senior international debut back in 1998. I have enjoyed it all.”
Tallaght-born Keane, who made two appearances as this summer’s Euro 2016 finals, both as a substitute, announced his decision shortly after manager Martin O’Neill named him in a 28-man squad for the Oman game, which will be followed by the Republic’s opening World Cup qualifier against Serbia in Belgrade on September 5.
His statement continued: “It has also been a great honour for both me and my family to have been given the opportunity to captain my country for over ten years.
“As a young boy growing up in Dublin playing football on the street, I could never have imagined the path my life would take - it has exceeded my wildest expectations.
“I have been extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to play for and captain my country - it was my ultimate goal all those years ago and it has been, by far, my greatest achievement.
“I would never have believed all those years ago that I would get the opportunity to play for my country 145 times and to score 67 goals - and through it all, I have never stopped chasing the next one.
“I have been on the most incredible journey with the Irish team and fans over the last 18 years and words cannot express how proud I am to be Irish.
Each and every time I put on the green jersey, it is such an honour.”
Keane was handed his senior debut against the Czech Republic in March 1998 as a 17-year-old by Mick McCarthy and has been a fixture virtually ever since, becoming the fourth Irishman to reach his century against Argentina in August 2010.
He came to worldwide prominence at the 2002 World Cup finals in the Far East where his equaliser against Germany announced his arrival on the biggest stage of all, and he passed Niall Quinn’s then record of 21 goals for the Republic in 2004.
Keane said: “I have grown up playing for Ireland and look back at the 17-year-old kid making his international debut, taken under the wing of Mick McCarthy and the FAI, and think of the person I am today and realise how playing for Ireland has been such a huge influence in my life.
“My team-mates over the years, the backroom staff, managers, FAI and the fans became my second family. I always looked forward to meeting with the team - it became a home away from home no matter what part of the world I was living in.
“I have so many fantastic memories of days with the Irish team and have made so many friends both on and off the pitch over this time.
“I have been very fortunate to play at major tournaments for Ireland over the years and I will cherish all of those memories. But one in particular stands out - the 2002 World Cup and scoring the late goal in Ibaraki, Japan against Oliver Kahn.
“The atmosphere, the adrenaline and the buzz from the fans that night is something I will always remember.
“I would like to thank all those who have supported me throughout my international career and who helped to make it all possible.”
Commenting on Keane’s announcement, O’Neill said: “Robbie’s appearances and goals for Ireland speak for themselves. He is undoubtedly one of Ireland’s finest ever players and I do not see his international goal record being beaten for a very long time, if ever.
“It will take us some time to get over his absence.”
Football Association of Ireland chief executive John Delaney added: “Robbie has been one of the greatest Irish sports figures of all time and a truly great Irish man.
“His goalscoring record of 67 goals from 145 games for Ireland is something that may never be beaten and I want to thank him for his contribution to the game, for his stunning performances and for great leadership on and off the pitch.
“There are few footballers in the world who have showed such enthusiasm to play for their country as Robbie Keane.”
Keane, who is to continue his club career with LA Galaxy, will bid an emotional farewell needing one more goal to equal the German great Gerd Muller’s career tally of 68 goals.
He said: “I had always hoped this day would never come and I will miss putting on the Ireland jersey and walking out to a sea of green.
“But I am looking forward to the game against Oman and putting on the jersey and singing the national anthem one last time in front of the home crowd at the Aviva. It will be an emotional night for me, but I will savour each and every last moment.”