Aston Villa legend Paul McGrath describes Derby County's Richard Keogh as "absolutely brilliant"

Ex Aston Villa footballer Paul McGrath greets fans during half time during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Newcastle United at Villa Park on September 17, 2011 in...

The Villans and the Rams will lock horns in Monday's Championship playoff final.

Richard Keogh of Derby County during the Sky Bet Championship match between Derby County and West Bromwich Albion at Pride Park Stadium on May 5, 2019 in Derby, England.

Aston Villa legend Paul McGrath has praised Derby County defender and fellow Irishman Richard Keogh ahead of the Championship playoff final and Republic of Ireland Euro 2020 qualifiers.

Keogh has made upwards of 300 appearances for the Rams since joining in 2012 from Coventry City but his time at Pride Park has not been without criticism and promotion heartbreak.

The 32-year-old has come under scrutiny on several occasions over the years by Derby fans, while former Premier League striker Dean Ashton once described him as the "weak link" in the team's defence.

 

In terms of heartbreak, Keogh finished on the losing side in the 2014 playoff final, missed out on the top six by one point in 2015, and was on the losing side in both the 2016 and 2018 semi-finals.

However, the Irishman did put in a great display against Leeds United in the second leg at Elland Road as Frank Lampard's side became the first team to reach the second-tier final after having lost the first leg at home.

"He deserves all the praise that he's getting. He's some defender and he looked like some forward against Leeds," McGrath told Irish outlet SportsJOE.  "People might say he should be given more freedom to play out from the back for Ireland but I don't think it's as easy as switching players and moving them around the pitch. Richard knows what he does best and that's defending.

Ex Aston Villa footballer Paul McGrath greets fans during half time during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Newcastle United at Villa Park on September 17, 2011 in...

"Sure, he goes for a wander sometimes and the odd time it works out but when it doesn't work out and he's caught out of position, he'll be criticised so it's a fine line but one Richard knows himself. I think he knows when to go and not to go. He's absolutely brilliant. I'm thrilled with the way he's come on. I think Mick will do a great job of gelling the team into a cohesive unit, particularly defensively with Richard at the heart."

Derby and Villa will lock horns in Monday's Championship playoff final at Wembley Stadium.

Derby County's Richard Keogh battles with  Aston Villa's Tammy Abraham during the Sky Bet Championship match between Derby County and Aston Villa at Pride Park Stadium on November 10, 2018...

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