Shay Given: I still want to be Ireland's No 1
Villa's Cup run revives keeper's Irish hopes
HE'S GOING to Wembley with his club, and now Shay Given hopes that his form with Aston Villa could see him win back his place in the Ireland side for the key European Championship qualifier with Poland later this month.
From one Irishman's point of view, Martin O'Neill possibly picked a bad day to go a-scouting on Saturday when he pitched up at the New Den to take in the Millwall-Norwich tie in the Championship.
Wes Hoolahan starred for the Canaries as he scored a superb individual goal but it was a nightmare for Millwall and David Forde, the Lions losing as Forde was beaten four times.
That same day, Given had a good afternoon as he kept a clean sheet and Aston Villa breezed past West Brom into the semi-finals of the FA Cup, though the game ended on a sour note for Ireland U21 cap Jack Grealish who was sent off for a second bookable offence.
Villa boss Tim Sherwood kept up the club's policy of resting No. 1 Brad Guzan for the Cup ties to allow Given some game time, and the Donegal man hopes that he can keep up that record of Cup appearances for next month's Wembley semi-final.
But while Poland's first-choice keeper Wojciech Szczesny (who, like Given, is not playing in the Premier League and is only rolled out for cup games) looks almost certain to lose his place in the Polish side for the qualifier next month due to his lack of football, Given (38) hopes that his experience with Villa this season could see him dislodge Forde for the Poland tie.
"Martin picks the team but if I can keep playing well - and I know that Séamus McDonagh was at our previous game in the Cup - it gives them another option," Given told Newstalk.
"At the end of the day, Martin, Séamus, Roy Keane and the other coaches will sit down and decide who is the best goalkeeper for the job at the end of the month.
"All I can do is look after myself and my own performances, the rest is up to the manager but of course I would love to play. It's a huge game in Dublin, against the group leaders at the minute, it's a massive game and I would love to be playing in it.
"I don't want to undermine David, but I want to play at the same time," added Given, who played in the most recent international, the 4-1 win over the USA in November.
"Myself, David Forde and Keiren Westwood all have a good working relationship and whoever plays will have the backing of the other goalkeepers.
"Tim (Sherwood) has told me that the jersey is up for grabs and that you have to go and put on a show when you get a chance, to show him that I am still capable of playing in the Premier League as well.
"It's a tough one, especially for myself as I have always played in my career, I have played at every club I have been with. It's not ideal but if anything, this Cup run has given me something to work on and focus on.
"Even being back with the Irish squad as well, as I know we have a big qualifier coming up. If I do play well in these Cup games, into the semi-final, maybe it gives Martin O'Neill a bit of a headache come the end of the month."