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twin towers Will Keane embracing chance to connect with his father’s journey for Ireland


Will Keane's father was born in Sligo but moved to England when he was adopted at the age of 10

Will Keane's father was born in Sligo but moved to England when he was adopted at the age of 10

Will Keane's father was born in Sligo but moved to England when he was adopted at the age of 10

Behind every player who uses eligibility rules to switch their international allegiance, there is a back story – even if it doesn’t directly involve the man who pulls on the shirt.

Countless Irish recruits over the years have arrived with a very limited knowledge of the reason they are able to declare beyond the birthplace of a grandparent.

Will Keane’s story is a little bit different and not just because he is going the opposite way to twin brother Michael, who played for Ireland at underage level before opting to throw in his lot with England.

From a football perspective, it’s clear that the 28-year-old Wigan player has eventually come this way because he was unable to build on his appearances with England at underage levels although it’s difficult for him to openly say that.

Identity is complex, though, and Keane’s explanation of why a call from Stephen Kenny at a relatively late stage of his career means a lot to his father Aidan illustrates that not every case is black and white. In a way, he’s doing this for Aidan.

"My Dad’s Irish,” he explains. “He was born in Sligo, and raised there. He was actually an orphan. He went to boarding school and was adopted and moved to England when he was 10.

"Unfortunately, my Dad lost touch with his roots, for obvious reasons, as he was given away as a child but to sort of reconnect with that and have the opportunity to represent Ireland is a massive honour and something I’m really proud of doing. For me to give him that gives me a lot of pleasure.”

His brother has supported the move, and Will even expressed the wish they could meet some day in an Ireland v England encounter, a scenario that would generate serious headlines. The Everton defender has a bit of work to do to get back into Gareth Southgate’s plans, and the Irish newcomer is likely to have to be patient when it comes to picking up a cap.

Callum Robinson is the man of the moment from a striking perspective and he’s a good example for Keane in the sense that he’s an ex-England underage international who has won over his new team-mates.

Simon Cox spoke recently on these pages about feeling a certain trepidation coming into the dressing-room given his background.

“Callum is a good example,” says Keane, who started off at Manchester United with his brother but struggled to deliver on his early potential due to injuries.

"He has an English background previously but chose to play for Ireland. There’s been a few previous as well. Coming into the first squad I was a little bit tentative.”

It helped that he had James McClean by his side, a patriotic member of the group who would take a dim view of a half-hearted approach to national-team duty. McClean’s endorsement is valuable to Keane.

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"He said I’d settle into the squad and be made welcome regardless,” he continues. “It felt like that. Like everyone else, I’m just wanting to do whatever I can to contribute to the same goals. I’m looking to give my all, whichever way I can.

“He lives and breathes Ireland and is a great professional as well. Personally, seeing him come into Wigan, he sets his standards high and other players follow that.

“When he first heard that the manager was looking at me, he was telling me how much of a great experience it would be to represent the country. That made me want to achieve it even more.”

Down the line, Keane would fancy a reunion with Robbie Brady, a former United team-mate, but he needs to get his feet under the table first before talking with certainty about where he sits in Kenny’s plans.

As a childhood Manchester United fan, he was a massive admirer of Cristiano Ronaldo but he left for Real Madrid just before the local lad signed as a young professional. Sharing a pitch with him tomorrow would be nice, but Keane may have to bide his time before writing the next chapter of a colourful family story.

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