herald

Wednesday 23 January 2019

Given is on a mission but Forde is top man

SHAY Given will fight for the right to play for Ireland again according to Ireland boss Martin O'Neill.

But picking David Forde to start in Tblisi was never in doubt and O'Neill gave his No. 1 the news early last week when he realised that the Given guarantee story had grown legs

"I wanted him to know beforehand to give himself the opportunity to prepare for the game and have no issues," said O'Neill.

"I hadn't read too much about it but when I was being questioned about it, I felt it was becoming an issue," he said.

O'Neill once again underlined the fact that Given was keen to return and that no deals had been done to make it happen.

"Shay wanted to come back but he'd never been promised everything."

It is clear from O'Neill's words that Forde will remain his first choice for this campaign unless Given can find regular football and proves he is good enough.

It is also obvious that O'Neill is more than happy with the dynamic which has developed within the tight goalkeepers group as a result of Given's return.

"It's obviously difficult for him to have played one competitive game for Aston Villa. He was in really great form last year at Middlesbrough. I actually believe rather than bringing a fear element, I think him being involved should galvanise the other keepers. David was going to start for us. Competition is healthy. "

"There is no doubt that Shay has vast experience. I have no doubt he wanted to play," said the Ireland boss.

"I think he wants to come back and show what he is capable of doing and he may have felt he has missed out in the last couple of years. "

O'Neill revealed that he had to make a tough call when he sent James McClean home for treatment on his troublesome ankle knock and a difference of opinion with Wigan about McClean's fitness..

"We need our best players available most of the time if not all of the time. Our squad is not that big. We haven't got a multitude of players. We do need our best players available," said O'Neill.

"I thought the news coming from him a few weeks ago, he felt that he was going to be OK. Wigan may have thought differently, there may have been a difference of opinion but I would have never forgiven myself if I had put him in and he hurt himself, picked up another injury."

"James felt strong enough with that particular injury but I was just worried he hadn't played that much football, like a lot of our players. Like everything else that was a concern. Anyway, he should play for Wigan and be ready for our games in October."

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