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Ranking Robbie Keane's Irish Striking Partners Over The Past 18 Years

Ranking Robbie Keane's Irish Striking Partners Over The Past 18 Years
By Conor Neville Updated

Robbie's boyhood dreams have been well ventilated at this stage, but none thus far have involved striking partners. Over the past eighteen years, he has soldiered alongside many.

Daryl Murphy, Alan Lee, and the unfortunate Keith O'Neill never played up front with Robbie long enough to make a proper impact.

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16. Noel Hunt

Has to come last because of both the infrequency with which they teamed up together and, more importantly, because of Hunt's penchant for trying to claim goals that Robbie scored. No harmonious striking partnership can be established following such an episode.

15. Anthony Stokes

Stokes has played so little for Ireland that he barely noses ahead of Bari's Noel Hunt in the race. Almost 25% of his international caps were gained during the reign of Noel King.

His progress with the national team was greatly retarded by his claims of tiredness during the summer of 2011. He was simply unable to summon up enough energy to tear into the Carling Nations Cup. The controversy gave Giovanni Trapattoni a chance to trot out his mantra that a footballer should only pull out of a game if he's in 'hospital or dead'.

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14. Conor Sammon 

Giovanni Trapattoni couldn't understand why Conor Sammon wasn't playing in the Premier League. Far more couldn't understand why he was playing for Ireland. He earned nine caps, all accrued during the bleak year of 2013, a year in which all hope seemed to have extinguished.

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13. David Connolly

Holland's best paid footballer during 1997, David Connolly's halcyon days in an Irish shirt date back to First Act of Mick McCarthy's reign, the 1998 World Cup qualifying campaign.

With Robbie's arrival, Connolly retreated to the role of a bit-parter. His only competitive goal during Robbie's international career came in the raucous 4-0 win (the game when Quinny broke the record) at the end of the 2002 World Cup qualifying campaign, when our participation in the playoff was already assured.

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He made an unwelcome intervention at the World Cup proper, hitting an almost offensively tame penalty at Iker Casillas in the shootout.

With Ireland's Euro 2004 hopes on life-support, he started up front with Robbie in the final group game in Basel. The Swiss pulled the plug with a comfortable 2-0 win.

12. Tony Cascarino

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Tony Cascarino's late 90s hot streak preceded Robbie's arrival. Cas's goals helped heave Ireland into the playoffs for the 1998 World Cup. By the time Robbie had muscled his way into the public mind, Cascarino's international career was winding down. His international career did end with a bang however, the bang of a Turkish policeman's truncheon.

The pair started up front in the first round of the Ireland-Turkey Euro 2000 playoff. Robbie at least scored in that game, even if Ireland couldn't hold out for the remaining eleven minutes. Cascarino was introduced late in the second leg and made a definite impact.

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His lowly status here is not, of course, a commentary on his standing in the pantheon of Irish strikers, rather the extent of his partnership with Robbie.

11. Simon Cox

An often forgotten man, Simon Cox's four-year spell in and around the Irish team yielded four international goals, none of which came in competitive fixtures. His selection usually provoked grumbles.

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10. Andy Keogh

Trap's initial early favourite, Andy Ke-ogh scored the first goal of his reign, a late equaliser against Serbia in Croke Park. The goal was celebrated with comical intensity by Trap and Tardelli.

He second and final international goal (barring an unlikely turn of events) was greeted with ironic cheers. Humiliation was averted as Ireland only lost 6-1 to Germany that night.

9. Caleb Folan

His Inis Mor grandmother's travels paid dividends for Ireland in Bari in 2009.

A willingness to "make a nuisance of oneself" has long been the primary virtue of the ideal Robbie Keane foil and Caleb did exactly that as a late substitute in Bari.

He expertly redirected Shay Given's long clearance in Robbie's direction with his back.

Very much a classic signature move of the ideal Robbie Keane striking partner.

8. Stephen Elliot

Elliot's international career cut across the Kerr and Stan eras. He managed nine games during that troubled time, scoring the only goal in that excruciating game in Cyprus in late 2005.

Of course, we would look on that harrowing night with wistful nostalgia after travelling to Cyprus the following year.

7. Shane Long

Played only fitfully alongside each other as it was actively believed that they didn't function well together. Long was regarded as a profligate speedster who didn't mesh well with Robbie. Kevin Doyle enjoyed a more profitable spell alongside Keane.

6. Jonathan Walters

During Robbie's time as an automatic starter, Jon Walters often functioned as an unorthodox wide player. Their most productive night as a striking duo was in Tallin in 2011, when Ireland slaughtered their nervy hosts. The primary mystery afterwards, for those who could be bothered to dwell on it, was how Estonia managed to find themselves in the playoffs.

5. Damien Duff

Not a traditional Robbie Keane foil in that he was primarily a winger. But Duffer began a couple of the World Cup games as a kind of striker/midfielder. Ireland generally found goals easier to come by when Robbie was joined up front by a larger man.

4. Gary Doherty

In the dying embers of Mick McCarthy's reign and in the First Act of Brian Kerr's time, Gary Doherty was the most reliable source of goals. He was Ireland's top scorer in the Euro 2004 qualification campaign, though he only needed three goals to earn that title. It was another case of big man accompanying small man, though Robbie's scoring rate slowed a fraction during 2003 and 2004 though that can hardly be laid at Gaz's door.

3. Clinton Morrison

The Tooting terror (not a registered nickname) scored nine goals for Ireland between the 2001 and 2005. Clinton was always good for a goal in the Brian Kerr era, rippling the net on tricky foreign assignments in Basel and Ramat Gan.

2. Kevin Doyle

Robbie's mainstay during the Stan and Trap eras. Doyle functioned as an able foil for many years, chipping in with a goal once in every five games.

Despite never being labelled a 'beanpole' by any man, he was regarded as a good man in the air whose flick-ons would help lay on the odd goal for Keane.

Robbie continued scoring at a fair old rate with Doyle by his side.

1. Niall Quinn

Niall Quinn held the Irish goalscoring record for a brief interval after breaking Frank Stapleton's long-standing record in October 2001 and before Robbie Keane zoomed by Quinny's total in late 2004.

After surpassing Frankie's record against the Cypriots, he told Tony O'Donoghue he didn't expect to hold it for long.

Quinny and Robbie's partnership is wholly associated with the late-Mick McCarthy era. Spoilt after the Jack Charlton era, the media took a hard line with Mick, often emphasising his failures and gliding past his successes. Mick's reign has been retrospectively adjudged as a semi-golden era, thanks to the floundering of some of his successors. As with President Harry Truman, history has been kinder than the contemporary news media.

They complimented each other beautifully, with Quinny enjoying a bit of an Indian summer alongside his ebullient striking partner.

Read more: How Irish Fans Shocked The World And Filled The Giants Stadium For Ireland-Italy '94

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