Surreal, but nevertheless a vocal crowd were determined not to let the occasion pass. Less than two minutes in and the familiar “Kean-o” chant echoed through the stadium.
Despite an energetic start from Ireland, it was the men in red for whom the first chance fell to. A neat connection from Ibrahim Saleh saw Westwood being sprung into action early on as he acrobatically tipped the Oman striker’s effort over the bar.
Ireland quickly regained composure. The brute strength of Jonathan Walters in the seventh minute led to a classic Brady moment of magic. Brady’s exquisite free kick curled into the bottom right hand corner of the goal, making that his third international goal in three games.
However, Brady and co were clearly intent that it was another Robbie who would be getting on the score sheet next. The much anticipated 68th record goal for the man in question was imminent. A Walter’s effort rebounded off the post and almost onto Keane’s right boot. The number ten wriggled through two defenders but was dispossessed before he could make a clean connection. That record goal was coming.
And when that goal did arrive, it didn’t disappoint. Walters leapt high to nod the ball down for Brady, the ball rebounding fortunately back to Walters who delicately toed it into his captain’s path. Ever aware of his surroundings, Keane knocked the ball over the oncoming defender before swiveling to volley past the helpless Oman keeper from close range.
It was classic Keane, as was his celebratory tumble. The crowd, as expected, erupted.
The Brady-Walters duo was key in Keane’s goal, and it only took five further minutes for the pair to combine again. A deep cross from the left full back was met by the head of Walters, who guided his effort neatly into the bottom left corner of Al Rushaidi’s goal.
O’Neill was intent on using every opportunity to assess his panel and the second half saw six substitutions. The one which met the most applause was, of course, the introduction of Hoolahan for Keane in the fifty-seventh minute, as the crowd stood to thank our long serving captain.
Keane slowly exited the pitch, arms raised in the air to wave goodbye. Still slightly surreal, surely for the man himself also.
Walters quickly continued his bright first half, pouncing on a through ball to skip by the onrushing Oman keeper and steer a left footed stroke into the back of the net to make it 4-0.
Ireland dominated possession for the entire second half, Oman seeing even less opportunities in front of goal than their two in the first forty-five minutes. The Irish attacking combination of Walters, McClean, Hendrick and Hoolahan linked well and a pacey O’Dowda looked sharp on the left flank.
O’Neill will surely be pleased with the performances of certain players, in addition to established senior corporals such as Walters and Brady. Harry Arter and Cyrus Christie in particular showcased their abilities.
But it will be Ireland’s number ten who steals the limelight tonight and rightly so. His final game in green this evening, but memories provided that will last a life time.
Ireland: Westwood (Randolph, 45); Christie, Wilson, Clark, Brady (Ward, 45), Quinn (O’Dowda, 65), Whelan (Hendrick, 45), Arter, Long (McClean,45) Keane (c) (Hoolohan, 57), Walters
Oman: Al Rushaidi; Sallam Amur Almukhaini, Humaid Mubarak Al Muqbali, Jamil Zaid Al Saadi, Mabrook Al Mushaifri, Saleh Abd Raboh Bait, Jouhar Bilal Al Khaldi, Awadh Bashir Bait Mabrook, Mohammed Rahid Al Malki, Ibrahim Saleh, Khalil Abdallah Al Shyadi.