Sunday 23 October 2016

o'shea blocks out mind games

Defender hopes right decisions will be made at crucial moments in tie

Euro 2016

JOHN O'Shea has a lot on his mind this week, one of the biggest weeks of his 14-year international career.

Given Robbie Keane's family tragedy in the last few days, he is unlikely to feature in today's Euro 2016 qualifier against Scotland so the captain's armband will pass to O'Shea.

That gives O'Shea extra duties - he spoke for the squad at yesterday's pre-match press conference and will perform the skipper's other roles today.

But O'Shea has no time to engage in mind games with his Scottish counterparts for a match which could define the current campaign - and the future of the Ireland management team.

Scotland's camp has been upbeat since they assembled two weeks ago, their new-found confidence built on a foundation of a vigour under boss Gordon Strahcan and the more hardy basis of their points tally, two more than Ireland.

It's not quite at the level of the 'trash talk' we get in US sports, and it's not at the level of sledging that we get in GAA at times, but the Scots come to Dublin maintaining their party line that the pressure is on Ireland in tomorrow's game, as Ireland are the home side and the ones who need to play catch-up on a Scottish side who ground out that win against Ireland on their own home patch last year.


"Mind games, oh my God," said O'Shea, appearing puzzled when asked for a reaction to comments from the Scottish side of the divide.

"Look, we need to win the game if we want to qualify for France, no matter who we're playing tomorrow we need to win the game. They can say what they want."

Quite a lot has been said already, and it's probably a tribute to the two sets of players (and supporters) that the nastiest barbs involved in this Scots/Irish battle have come from the boardrooms.

John Delaney dragged the FAI into a very undignified slanging match with the Scots with his comments over the ticketing arrangements before the game in Glasgow, stating: "In my 10 years as chief executive, no association has treated us as badly as the Scottish have done on this particular occasion."

His SFA counterpart had a very well-phrased dig at the FAI earlier this week, and while there may be tension between the two delegations, O'Shea says it's all about the players having composure.

Games like Ireland v Scotland are different to clashes with the likes of Georgia or Armenia, due to the deep knowledge that the players have of one another and the close ties between many of them - O'Shea and Steven Fletcher are team-mates and there are many other bonds.


"It's the same approach," says O'Shea. "You're going back to the manager talking about the elements of the game, the passion and desire, composure to play that final pass, those little elements are going to be key in the game because it is a derby game.

"It is going to be tight. But those elements are going to be crucial. There are going to be chances when we're attacking, it's that decision you make: do you take the player on or do you make the pass? You hope the players get the crucial decisions right and hopefully you score goals from it," added O'Shea, who will not engage in any pre-match banter with club-mate Fletcher.

"Obviously, there won't be too much laughing and joking before the game. But afterwards, it will be the same. You shake hands and get on with things, whatever the result was. I know the player, obviously I get on very well with him, but ultimately you want to beat him," he says, admitting that Fletcher is not the only threat from the away side.

"You don't just look at the attacking players. Obviously, you look at the whole package and it will be a good test for us without a doubt.

"It's not just attacking players, they've got good players all over the pitch. That's why we know it will be a good test but one we're looking forward to."

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