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Thursday 8 December 2016

Ring of steel around team in France a shock for Shay

Darren Randolph and Shay Given limber up in training. Picture Credit: David Maher/Sportsfile
Darren Randolph and Shay Given limber up in training. Picture Credit: David Maher/Sportsfile

Shay Given has clocked up a lot of air miles and seen a lot since he made his international debut 20 years ago.

The turmoil in Bursa in 1999, the knife-throwing in Tbilisi in 2003, and various scrapes in Skopje, Belgrade and Tehran are just some of the stories. But even Given has been taken aback at the level of security surrounding the Irish team (and others) at Euro 2016.

"We have a few armed guards with us - and I wouldn't want to mess with them. That's the first time I've had that at a tournament and they are travelling everywhere with us. I suppose we'll get used to it, but it does seem a bit weird," says Given, that tight security (though not the armed guards) evident at the training session at their team HQ here in Versailles.

"I've been telling our security guys, "We don't need you anymore, you can go back to Dublin'. They're not too happy about that," he jokes.

"It's a difficult time in France after the attacks last year and it's the same for every team, we have to make sure everyone is safe.

" A couple of times we have stopped on the bus and a few gunmen have jumped out - it can be a little bit nerve-wracking on that front. But that's only been because there was traffic in the end.

"But we're well protected and you have to have faith in the security and the French services, they are trained in this. That's what they do - we play football and they keep people safe.

"I'm the sure the gaffer will sit down with us and let us know what we can and can't do in the village, like have a walk for a coffee, but that will come back to a security point of view."

In terms of football security, the best way Ireland can achieve that is with a win over Sweden on Monday. Win, and Ireland are almost already through to the knock-out stages but lose and we could be in a very, very bad way.

"We know how big it is, Belgium and Italy are arguably the strongest two teams in the group," says Given, likely to be on the bench on Monday night as Martin O'neill will opt for Darren Randolph in goal.

"But Sweden will be saying the same: 'If we can get off with a win against the Irish then it sets us up well'. So we're the exact same and we're confident we can get a result. We will treat them with great respect but we feel we have a chance of winning the game," added Given, prepared for a return to the Stade de France after the, ahem, events of 2009.

"Hopefully we're due a break there. But it's not about looking back, it's about Sweden on Monday night. What happened has gone. It's a fantastic stadium and an amazing atmosphere and we have to use that."

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