Keogh relishing Ronaldo challenge
[.[views].], BY ClubCall
Richard Keogh is desperate for a chance to make Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo pay for his play-off final heartache.
The Republic of Ireland defender met up with his international team-mates last week still reflecting upon Derby's dramatic Wembley defeat by QPR, in which his late error helped Bobby Zamora to fire Rangers into the Barclays Premier League.
However, the prospect of playing a part in friendlies against Costa Rica in Philadelphia during the early hours of Saturday morning, and then Ronaldo's Portugal in New Jersey next week, have proved hugely cathartic.
Keogh, who will hope to win his fourth senior cap against the Costa Ricans, said: "That would be absolutely fantastic. He [Ronaldo] is one of the best players, if not the best player, in the world.
"It's a great honour to wear the green jersey and when you play against great opposition, it makes you better.
"But we are just focusing on trying to get a positive result. We had a positive result against Italy and we are looking forward to these two games.
"Training has been really sharp, really competitive and I think the boys are ready."
Keogh and Derby team-mates Jeff Hendrick and Conor Sammon met up barely 48 hours after suffering play-off heartache, but were immediately enveloped in support from not only their team-mates, but Ireland manager Martin O'Neill and his assistant Roy Keane.
Asked about O'Neill's response, the 27-year-old said: "He was absolutely fantastic.
"We got in late on the Monday and he came and chatted and he just said, 'Listen, it was unfortunate, what happened, but you have had a fantastic season and in time it will make you a stronger person and a better player'.
"For someone like that to mention that to me, it meant a lot. It gives you a lot of confidence to want to do well and really improve, and I really appreciated it.
"[Keane] said some calm words to me and when someone like that says it to you, it's really fantastic. It's something that again filled me with a lot of confidence.
"I can't thank those two too much, really, for how they have helped me since came in.
"When he speaks you listen. He's a fantastic guy, he was a fantastic player and when he gives you advice, it's great for everyone, especially the midfield players.
"He helps everyone to try to improve their game, so from our point of view, it's absolutely fantastic and it's an absolute pleasure to work with him."