Derby County skipper Richard Keogh hoping to make Irish dream come true
RICHARD Keogh is hoping to fulfil a long-held dream this evening.
The Derby County skipper is in the Republic of Ireland squad for the first time and could make his senior international debut in tonight's friendly against Poland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin (7.45pm).
The central defender, who is expected to be on the bench, was born in Essex but qualifies to play for Giovanni Trapattoni's side through his Irish father.
"It's something I've always wanted to do and to be in the squad is great," said Keogh, who has previously represented Ireland at youth level.
"When you get a taste of it with the under-21s, you want to do on and represent your country at the highest level.
"My dad was born in Ireland – in a small town called Carlow. That's how I qualify.
"I was born in Essex. My dad moved over here when he was younger but I've still got family in Ireland.
"It was a proud day for him and everyone in the family when I got the call.
"I've played for the under-19s, the under-21s and now, hopefully, I can add the senior side to that."
Keogh joined Derby from Coventry City last summer and has been ever-present in Nigel Clough's side so far this term.
"This season has been great for me – playing for a club like Derby and in a team like this," said the 26-year-old.
"I think I've been pretty consistent this season – and that has helped me get to where I am."
Before joining up with the Ireland squad, Keogh scored in the Rams' 3-0 victory over Huddersfield Town at Pride Park on Saturday – earning himself a place in the Championship team of the week.
"Getting called up is something I'm really excited about," he said.
"Winning, scoring a goal and keeping a clean sheet on Saturday will give me a boost, confidence-wise.
"I've worked hard for this and I'm going to go and take it all in.
"It's going to be a great experience and, hopefully, I can be involved."
Trapattoni has opted for a centre-back pairing of John O'Shea (Sunderland) and Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa) to start againstPoland.
They will be hoping to keep quiet Borussia Dortmund's £18m-rated star Robert Lewandowski, who is being courted by Manchester United and Bayern Munich.
"Lewandowski is a highly sought-after striker and a proven goal scorer in world football," said Keogh.
"So it's going to be a tough test but we're strong at home and I'm sure the manager will make sure we're well prepared for them."
Keogh is one of three uncapped Derby players in the Ireland squad – with Conor Sammon and Jeff Hendrick also receiving first call-ups.
"These things can be quite daunting and even though I know quite a few guys in the squad, it helps that Conor and Jeff will be with me," said Keogh. "That should help us settle in a bit quicker.
"It will be good to get to know the rest of the lads and try to impress the manager."