herald

Friday 9 December 2016

Cup run and Euros McShane's driving ambition

Defender not giving up on making the Ireland cut for France in summer

Paul McShane in action for Reading, who face West Brom in FA Cup action tomorrow
Paul McShane in action for Reading, who face West Brom in FA Cup action tomorrow
Paul McShane, pictured here talking to Ireland manager Martin O’Neill Photo: Sportsfile

A visit to Wembley in May with his club followed by a trip to France in June with his country are the twin aims driving Paul McShane.

And the 30-year-old, who lines out for Reading against his former club West Brom in the FA Cup tomorrow, admits it will be "devastating" for the Irish players who get the dreaded call from Martin O'Neill to tell them that they've failed to make the cut for that 23-man squad for Euro 2016.

McShane is one of the most loyal servants on the Irish scene, having made his debut back in 2006, though his loyalty has not always been rewarded with caps and, astonishingly, his last competitive appearance for his his country was in the play-off defeat to France in 2009.

He's one of the players facing an anxious wait ahead of that squad announcement: the Reading defender didn't kick a ball in the qualifying campaign (the closest he came was a seat on the bench against Germany and Poland) and he's played just once, in the friendly against England, since Martin O'Neill took over.

McShane doesn't need to be told that squad selection is a harsh business, as he was initially excluded from the Euro 2012 panel but was then drafted in just before the tournament, at the expense of a distraught Kevin Foley, and the Reading defender is desperate to make the cut now.

"It will be hard on those who miss out, it will be gutting for some people, and I am sure there will be people devastated when they don't make the squad," McShane told The Herald.

"If you're not devastated at missing out, then there's something wrong with you. It's the nature of the game, only 23 players can be on that plane so the manager has to make some tough decisions, it's a hard job being a manager, and you have to respect any decisions he makes, it will be hard on a few who miss out.

"I'd love to be in France as we'll have a good crew from the club there. We'll have Chris Gunter and Hal Robson Kanu with Wales, Ollie Norwood with the North, it looks like those three will go and I'd love to be there in France with them."

Some of those players who miss out could opt to travel to France as a regular punter but not McShane. "If I didn't make the squad I don't think I could go to France as a fan, it would be too hard as it just wouldn't be the same," he says.

"So it's in my mind and it's definitely an aim of mine to get into the squad for France. I am just playing away here at the club, trying to do as well as I can in every game, win every game to get Reading up the table and go on in the Cup, Ireland is out of my control but it is on my mind and I will be ready if called upon," added McShane, who was called up for the play-offs against Bosnia but missed out due to injury.

Injuries have disrupted his season in what's been a disappointing campaign for his club, and as promotion is beyond the Royals, a Cup run is a target as McShane is a fan of the competition.

Atmosphere

"I'm glad to be in the Cup and playing this weekend, instead of being off on a beach somewhere like some of the Premier teams were this week. A Cup run can be great for a club, it can create a really good atmosphere in the club and the squad and you never know how far you can get, before you know it you could be in the final, like the year that happened with us at Hull," he says, having already played in a Wembley Cup final (2014).

"I don't dwell on that too much as you are always looking for the next thing, the next challenge, it's nice to have as a memory but it's not a massive thing. It was an odd one, though, as I had been out for three months with an ankle injury and I was just desperate to make the Cup final.

"I played 60 minutes, including extra time, it was a good day out but bad that we lost it. It was good for me to make it as a Wembley Cup final is a great occasion, but it's so disappointing to lose, the best way to come away from Wembley is as a winner and unfortunately with Hull we didn't do that.

"West Brom are a proven Premier League team. In the last round that Peterborough gave them a run for their money, but West Brom know how to win these games, so it's a hard match for us but a tie we're looking to win."

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