THE support of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane has helped lift Richard Keogh following his Wembley woe.
The Derby County defender has revealed how the Republic of Ireland manager and his assistant have boosted his confidence in the wake of the Rams’ 1-0 Championship play-off final defeat to Queen’s Park Rangers.
Keogh’s error led to Bobby Zamora’s late winner for 10-man QPR.
The devastated Derby skipper joined up with the Ireland squad barely 48 hours after the match, along with club-mates Jeff Hendrick and Conor Sammon.
The emotions were still raw for the trio but Keogh paid tribute to O’Neill’s response to their arrival.
“He was absolutely fantastic,” said the 27-year-old.
“We got in late on the Monday and he came and chatted with us.
“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.”
Manchester United legend Keane also did his bit to improve Keogh’s demeanour.
“He said some calm words to me and when someone like that says it to you, it’s really fantastic,” he said.
“It’s something that again filled me with a lot of confidence.
“When he (Keane) 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.
“I can’t thank the two of them too much, really, for how they have helped me since I came in.”
Keogh was an unused substitute in the goalless draw with Italy at Fulham last Saturday.
The centre-back was hoping to add to his three caps overnight against Costa Rica in Philadelphia.
Ireland will then look ahead to a match with Portugal in New Jersey next week.
Keogh is relishing the prospect of possibly lining up against Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.
“That would be absolutely fantastic,” he said. “He 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.”