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Richard Keogh knows how to make Ireland smile after being steeled by hurt

Republic defender who has known the downside of football reveals how Martin O’Neill can make a player feel unstoppable as he prepares to give Sweden’s talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic a hard time in Euro 2016 Group E opener

Richard Keogh will never forget the feeling of rejection, the emptiness it caused and the fear a long-held dream stood to be crushed. For the Derby County and Republic of Ireland central defender, the first time was the worst, when Ipswich Town – his club since the age of eight – chose not to offer him a scholarship at 16. But it was not much easier when Stoke City released him at 18.

Keogh’s story is one of grit, his style synonymous with rugged durability. And when the Republic’s anthem plays at Stade de France on Monday, before the Euro 2016 Group E opener with Sweden, he might spare a moment to reflect on a remarkable personal journey. Then again, the Essex-born 29-year-old is not the sentimental type.

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