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Saturday 3 December 2016

O'Shea: I'll be ready to answer the call

Veteran defender ready to battle for place in starting XI at Euros

John O'Shea in training. Photo: Sportsfile
John O'Shea in training. Photo: Sportsfile
John O’Shea is pictured during an Ireland press conference with manager Martin O’Neill ahead of tonight’s friendly against The Netherlands at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Sportsfile

One battle, the one to keep his club in the Premier League, ended in success for John O'Shea even though the final stages of that fight went ahead without him.

Now, the Ireland veteran has to battle again to keep his place in the starting XI for Euro 2016, a challenge which he insist he is up for. O'Shea is certain to make it into the 23-man squad and it would be a major surprise if Ireland kicked off against Sweden in Paris next month without O'Shea at the heart of the Irish defence.

Back in 2002, he was the young kid on the block trying (without success) to force his way into the Ireland squad for the World Cup finals.

Now, O'Shea is a veteran who knows he has a place in the squad as a guarantee but yet can still see contenders like Shane Duffy over his shoulder.

Lack of game time with Sunderland at the tail end of the season could be seen as a hindrance but the Waterford man is calm about it all.

"It's always a case when you play, you want to play well. Ultimately when the squad is announced, everyone knows you're fighting for that," he says, O'Shea likely to captain the side at home to Holland tonight.

Battle

"When you're named in the 23, when the final squad is announced, it's a battle to get into the XI. It's a case of wait and see.

"Look, I've played plenty of games throughout my career for club and country to know I'll be ready if needed and when called upon.

"Fitness, thankfully, has never been too much of a problem for me throughout my career. Obviously when you're not in the team, you're doing extra work to stay on top of things, making sure you're ready," added O'Shea, keen to stay in the Irish side despite that lack of game time with his club of late.

"It's one of those things - when I picked up the knock, the lads got in and did their stuff and thankfully we stayed in the league, that was the ultimate thing. It's one of those things, when competition for places is key, that's what we need to make sure performances stay high. That's something we have to be looking to do if you get the chance to play," he says.

O'Shea was reminded of that 2002 scenario when some (including then United team-mate Roy Keane) felt he should have made the squad.

"I wasn't even in the squad, I didn't even train or meet up with the squad before 2002. It wasn't as if I got very close to going," he says, aware that some of the current crop could miss out but are also working hard to impress the boss.

"As the manager said, if the manager is telling you there is a possibility, you'd be delighted all day with that. Because you believe what you do in training and possibly a match can get you in that 23.

"Even then, if there is last minute injury - which you don't want - but you've impressed, the manager's mind is made up for him, he's got a ready made lad already to go with the right attitude even if he's just been told he's not made the 23.

"But he's had the right application during the week.

"The desire to show what he can do and the manager knows he's ready to go."

His previous club, United, will be represented in the Dutch squad tonight but O'Shea draws no extra pleasure from the scenario where Irelannd have qualified for Euro 2016 as Holland stay home.

"Obviously I would be more concerned about ourselves. It's just great that you're going to a major tournament, that's why you go and play for your country, to go to these events," he says.

"Lots of countries bigger and more powerful than Ireland and Holland have missed out on tournaments over the years, at some stage or other. It's just a case of the players, qualification campaigns and strange results over the years but ultimately it's about ourselves, thankfully we have got there and I wouldn't be too concerned about Holland," he added.

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