Sunday 26 May 2019

Lions man Shaun keen to make his mark on 'idol' Roy

IN CONTROL: Shaun Williams in action for Ireland against Celtic at Parkhead last Sunday
IN CONTROL: Shaun Williams in action for Ireland against Celtic at Parkhead last Sunday

Shaun Williams can recall the time when he'd go along to watch Ireland train, near his home in Malahide, to try and get the autograph of his idol, Roy Keane.

Now the task for Williams, at the age of 31, is to prove to Keane and his boss, Martin O'Neill, that he's good enough to play international football.

The Millwall star got his first taste of the Ireland scene on Sunday, when he started in midfield for an Ireland XI in Scott Brown's testimonial. He's unsure if he will get a call back for the squad which assembles in Dublin on Thursday to prepare for the friendly games against France and the USA.

In the middle is the minor matter of Williams' wedding, in Spain next week, to partner Sinéad, though he would be able to make arrangements if Martin O'Neill gives him the nod.

But even if he fails to make the cut, the call for last weekend's game was a boon for the Lions star.

"If you are good enough then hopefully it does not matter what age you are, although obviously I don't pick the team," says Williams.

"I'm unaware of what will happen as he has not named the squad for the next two games. Please God, I stay in it. It would be unbelievable to go to Paris and play France next week, just fantastic.

"I didn't even know when the squad was being announced so I didn't think about it. I was on holidays and totally switched off from football.

"Before the Turkey game I was waiting for the squad to be announced and I didn't get into it. So this time I was totally unaware of it so I think that it made it all the better. It tops off a great season.

"It was a tough game against Celtic and they have been playing together all year while it was difficult for us to come in with a new group of players. But I felt that we did quite well at times and I thoroughly enjoyed it."

For Williams, working with Keane last week revived memories.

"It was great to be able to learn from Martin and Roy at training on Friday and Saturday," he said.

"I idolised Roy as a kid - I was a Manchester United fan and he was my hero in the team. I got a few autographs off him over the years when Ireland trained at Malahide United. I would go down to the club from whatever age I was allowed out on my own to watch training."

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