Giovanni Trapattoni's side stay in contention for World Cup 2014 thanks to a treble from captain Robbie Keane, who moves to 59 international goals
Robbie Keane marked his record-breaking 126th international appearance with a hat-trick as Republic of Ireland eased past Faroe Islands 3-0 in their World Cup Qualifier at the Aviva Stadium.
The 32-year-old took just four minutes to breach the visitors’ defence before taking his international tally to 59 goals with a second-half brace and in the process earning the Boys in Green three crucial points as the race for second in Group C intensifies.
Faroes 'keeper Gunnar Nielsen pulled off a number of impressive stops to deny Keane in particular as the hosts' early momentum petered out but Trapattoni's charges did enough to overcome their inferior opponents with minimal fuss and complete a satisfactory fortnight.
Wes Hoolahan was handed his first competitive start by the Italian tactician in the absence of the suspended James McCarthy and it didn’t take long for the Norwich playmaker to justify his inclusion.
A neat one-two with Jonathan Walters on the edge of the area created a pocket of space for the 33-year-old to feed Aiden McGeady on the left and his low cross was swept home by Keane.
Moments later, the LA Galaxy front man very nearly turned provider but defender Jonhard Frederiksberg did brilliantly to get across and block Jonathan Walters’ goal bound effort after Keane’s clever ball down the side of the visitors’ defence.
The early goal was exactly what Trapattoni and the home fans had wished for but instead of kicking on and creating daylight between themselves and their inferior opponents, the hosts seemed to rest on their laurels and struggled to find the cutting edge in the final third.
Both Walters and Keane were dropping off and finding acres of space and a move straight from the training ground almost doubled the home side’s advantage. Simon Cox’s quick thinking from a free-kick caught the Faroes defence unaware but Keane couldn’t poke past the onrushing Nielsen.
The Faroe Islands shot stopper then pulled off an equally impressive save from the Irish captain’s fierce strike after a poor defensive clearance. The Boys in Green stepped up the intensity as the half-time whistle approached as McGeady continued to cause Frederiksberg problems every time he got forward.
In a rare moment of reprieve from defensive duties, Lars Olsen’s side had appeals for a penalty waved away moments into the second period. Christian Holst went down under the clumsy challenge of Sean St Ledger but the Finnish official was quick to silence the calls for a spot-kick.
It wasn’t long until Ireland’s domination paid off and once again it was incisive play from Hoolahan which led to the goal. For the first time in the match Seamus Coleman got away from his marker and needed no second invitation to fire the ball across the box where Keane was there to slot home.
The Italian tactician introduced James McClean and Conor Sammon shortly after the hour mark and the substitutes combined to put Keane’s hat-trick on a plate. McClean’s cross from the right fell kindly at the feet of the Derby County striker before he diverted the ball in the direction of Keane to poke home for his 59th goal in a green jersey.
Friday's victory moves Ireland up to third place in Group C and level on points with Austria who edged past Sweden in Vienna. Trapattoni's side complete a busy end-of-season schedule on Tuesday when they face World and European champions Spain in New York.