Roy Keane has insisted the Republic of Ireland have nothing to be frightened of as they prepare to finally launch the Martin O'Neill era in earnest.

After 10 months of dress rehearsals, which have seen O'Neill's team line up in friendlies against Latvia, Poland, Serbia, Turkey, Italy, Costa Rica, Portugal and Oman with varying degrees of success, they will take to the main stage on Sunday when they open their Euro 20126 campaign against Georgia in Tbilisi (5pm, live on RTÉ Two).

It has been a long wait for the 62-year-old and his assistant since their appointment in November last year, and both men are relishing the opportunity to get down to the serious business.

They will do so in potentially testing circumstances as the Group D campaign gets under way at the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena, where a hostile welcome is assured.

However, Keane said: "We are looking forward to it, of course, we have said that for the last few months. Friendlies are all well and good, but it's down to business now over the weekend, so we are looking forward to it.

"Everyone seems frightened to death, particularly the media. There's a lot of negativity. Strangely enough I'm sure if we qualify, you will be first to celebrate and have a jolly-up over there. 

"From the players’ point of view and from the manager and the staff - we have got a top, top manager and we will be ready. I don't know what you are worried about.

"The reason we play these games is to get involved in tough qualifying matches. It's going to be tough, obviously, but my goodness, we have got to look forward to the game.

"People are on about a hostile atmosphere - brilliant, bring it on."

"People are on about a hostile atmosphere - brilliant, bring it on"

That level of defiance from a man who led both his country and club Manchester United into battle all over the world should perhaps not come as any surprise, and victory in Tbilisi would represent the perfect start to a group which is likely to be tight throughout with Ireland, Scotland, Poland and Georgia likely to find themselves locked in a battle for second place behind favourites Germany.

Keane, 43, said: "It's a tough game, particularly away from home, but from the angle I'm looking at, certainly over the next few days, we have just got to make sure we get our own act together, make sure we are right tactically and we pick the right team and if we are at it, we can give them a tough game.

Roy Keane

"I think every game is going to be vital for us. We have said since the draw was made no doubt Germany will be hot favourites, but every minute of every game will be vital. There will be vital moments and starting with Sunday, we need to be ready.

"It's a difficult start, but we are ready for it. We will be ready on Sunday. That's why you play the game. There's nothing to be frightened of."

O'Neill and Keane put their players through their paces in Malahide this morning following last night’s 2-0 victory over Oman at the Aviva Stadium, although the starting XI is likely to be very different in Georgia.

Wigan Winger James McClean has been ruled out after failing to regain full match fitness following a spell on the sidelines with an ankle problem, while Sheffield Wednesday keeper Keiren Westwood is a doubt after going down with tonsillitis.

However, James McCarthy's blistered feet have settled down and he will be available as O'Neill finalises his plans.

One of his biggest decisions concerns who will start in goal with Shay Given having done so against the Omanis more than two years after calling time on his international career.

The Aston Villa keeper insists he has been given no indication that he will get the nod, and that it is collective, rather than individual achievement which will matter on Sunday.

Given said: "I don't know what's happening on Sunday, of course, but as I said at the start, whoever plays, then we are all fully behind them.

"All that matters is we get a good result on Sunday. That's the most important thing."

Keane admitted playing a minor role in Given's return to the fold in his dual role as number two to both O'Neill and Villa boss Paul Lambert, an arrangement he believes can only benefit him as a coach.

He said: "The more hours I get working with good players, it will certainly improve me as a coach and that's what I wanted to do. That's why I got back involved. I wanted to be on the grass a bit more."

TV Reaction: Ireland Beat Oman