Robbie Keane's 49th goal for the Republic of Ireland sealed a 1-0 win against Scotland and first place in the inaugural Nations Cup in Dublin.
Sunday's game was to decide the competition as both teams had beaten Scotland and Wales in the four-sided tournament. Scotland, who went into the match behind the hosts on goal difference, threatened to equalise on several occasions after Keane's strike midway through the first half.
The tournament, played entirely at Dublin Arena, actually began in February, when Ireland beat Wales 3-0 and Scotland defeated Northern Ireland by the same scoreline. Fixtures resumed on Tuesday with the Republic beating their northern neighbours 5-0, Keane striking twice along with Stephen Ward, Simon Cox and a Craig Cathcart own goal.
A day later Scotland came from behind to defeat Wales 3-1, Robert Earnshaw's first-half goal bettered after the break by James Morrison, Kenny Miller and Christophe Berra. Wales did beat Northern Ireland 2-0 on Friday for third place courtesy of Aaron Ramsey and Robert Earnshaw.
Ireland emerged victorious despite a tremendous second-half effort by Scotland in the decider, Keane ending as top scorer with three goals. That is a boost for Ireland ahead of their crucial trip to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on Saturday in qualifying Group B, where they are level at the top on ten points with Slovakia and Russia.
"All you want to do is come into a camp and get that confidence. Two wins in a week will do that," Keane told Sky Sports. "It is a great week for us. We've had clean sheets all week and it's great build-up for [FYROM], a great boost for the camp. It was nice to get a result and we are delighted to be able to celebrate something like this in our home stadium."
Scotland return to qualifying Group I action on 3 September at home to the Czech Republic needing a win to close the five-point gap to their second-placed visitors. The night before, Wales – due to host the next Nations Cup in 2013 − play Group G high-fliers Montenegro while Northern Ireland can prepare for the Group C visit of the Faroe Islands on 10 August.
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