Roy Keane was never in doubt that Gareth Bale would be fit for the Republic of Ireland’s upcoming World Cup qualifying clash with Wales at the Aviva Stadium.

The Wales and Real Madrid star is recovering from an ankle injury and while there were doubts about whether Bale would be fully fit to face Ireland, the player was back at full training this week indicating that a return to first team action was imminent. 

But the Ireland assistant manager is confident that his players will be more than up for the challenge and quality that the Real Madrid attacking midfielder will bring to Dublin on 24 March.

“We’ll be ready for him,” said Keane, with that old menacing look in his eye. But then for clarification, “well I won’t but the players will be.”

The former Manchester United and Ireland captain was certainly showing no malice towards the Wales talisman and, if anything, appeared to relish the challenge his side would face going up against the strongest XI that the Euro 2016 semi-finalists would be bringing to Dublin next month.

“It seems a long wait, of course, since our last match but we’re the same as everybody else, and we’re obviously really excited,” said Keane, speaking at the launch of this year’s SSE Airtrcity League season, which returns next week.

“I expected Bale to be fit. I’d like to think he is getting some good medical care over there and he is working with the best surgeons and fitness coaches and I see he is back kicking a ball, so to me he was always going to be fit for our match.

“But we’ve got some good players, Seamus Coleman and people like that, and we should get excited because you want to test yourself against the best and I am sure that our players will be looking forward to it.

“And it’s great to see some of our lads do well, week in, week out, and we cannot wait for the match.”

Ireland currently top their World Cup qualifying table following an excellent start to the campaign with 10 points from a possible 12, and while victory over Wales would prove a giant step to reaching Russia next year, the Ireland assistant was quick to point out the ever-changing nature of football.

“We’ve got a bit of momentum but there’s obviously added pressure because when you get a little bit of success, people automatically think that we just turn up and you’re going to win football matches,” he said. 

“But it doesn’t work that way. We’re up against a very good team with some outstanding individuals.

“Martin has done a brilliant job, we’ve got some really good players, a good spirit and a good energy in the group. 

“I think the fans are behind us at the moment, obviously that can change very, very quickly, we all know that,” added Keane.

And Keane was happy to praise the players, who he believes, make his job easier as they are totally committed to the cause and never fail to give anything other than 100% in the green jersey.

“Please God, all the lads stay fit for the next four or five weeks, and the beauty from working with these players is that we know that they are going to give it everything that they have got. 

“And when the players do that, you always have a chance.”

“And when the players do that, you always have a chance.”