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Friday 30 September 2016

Veteran Given 'excited' by challenge to get on plane to France

Shay Given
Shay Given

A 20-year career as a senior international, no wonder Shay Given admits he's has a "good run" at it.

But there is still a chapter to be written for the Stoke City goalkeeper, who has every intention of earning a place in Ireland's 23-man squad for Euro 2016 as a starting point, and then attempting to win back his position as firts-choice keeper for the national team.

Given doesn't need to look too far to see how the game has caught up with him, as the newest member of the Irish senior squad, Oxford United man Callum O'Dowda, had not even celebrated his first birthday when Given made his senior Ireland debut. Having quit international football after the horror show that was Euro 2012, an episode which Given wants to consign to memory instead of dredging it up again and again, Given is back in the frame for the squad.

He's likely - but not certain - to make the squad as one of the trio of Given, Kieiren Westwood and David Forde will be left at home but the 40-year-old feels he has something to offer. That could mean the mentor role which keepers like Gerry Peyton and Alan Kelly provided in the past, but Given just wants to get his name into that 23-strong travelling party.

"I am not nervous, I am gone past that stage," he said after the first training session yesterday of the Euro 2016 build-up.

"I can only say how I feel and I am really excited about the week ahead, and hopefully getting on the plane though there are no guarantees I will be on the plane.

"It will be tough to miss out, but someone is going to miss out. It's going to be tough for someone. If it's me I'll take it on the chin. If it's someone else, they'll have to do the same. That's the decision the gaffer has to make. He's the manager, he makes those decisions. Of course personally it would be a very difficult one, yeah, but you have to get on with it.

Not nervous

"But I am not nervous, I will just go out like I do every day, train hard and hopefully get enough game time," added Given, who showcased himself to Martin O'Neill's goalkeeping coach on the final day of the Premier League season.

"I know Seamus McDonagh was at the West Ham game, myself and Darren (Randolph) were both playing which was quite handy for Seamus. Hopefully that will give him a bit of a sway in my direction that I should be on the plane at least."

To even be in contention is a boost, of sorts, for Given as things were looking grim when he injured his knee while playing for Ireland against Germany in October, so those end-of-season games with Stoke, once he regained fitness, were important. Did he ever think the game was up?

"Yeah, every day," he joked. "First and foremost it was about trying to get fit for Mark Hughes and the team. But obviously at the back of my mind was the summer and the Euros. It was a massive goal to work towards. Thankfully I got back fit before the end of the season.

"I played the last game and I felt I played well. I was just happy to get a game under my belt before we met up as well for the summer.

"Obviously we've got the Holland game on Friday and the Belarus game next week, so I don't know what the gaffer's thoughts are on that. I haven't spoken to the gaffer yet here on who's playing and who's not playing.

"We all don't know who is travelling. Me as well, I don't know if I'm going to be in the final 23.

I will be disappointed, initially, not to play, everyone wants to play in the first game. But the bigger picture is what's best and the manager has to make that decision, and whoever gets the nod, we have a really tight group."

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