O'Shea in seventh heaven
Déise man delighted to lead Reds in Aviva rout
A TROPHY on board before a ball is kicked in the Community Shield, let alone the league championship -- that's what you'd call a good start to the season.
And while Manchester United FC will hardly see the need to find a prominent place in the trophy room for the Airtricity Challenge Trophy, what with all those Premier League titles and pieces of European silverware, last night's 7-1 win for United against the League of Ireland XI was a proud night for John O'Shea.
Not only did he and his club-mate Darron Gibson become the first Irish internationals to play in the revamped Lansdowne Road -- beating their international team-mates like Shay Given and Robbie Keane to it by a week -- but O'Shea lifted a trophy for United for the first time, the Waterford man handed the honour and the armband for United's first full-strength visit to this country in some time.
In the real world and in the long term, the benefit for United from last night was the sight of Wayne Rooney, Nemanja Vidic, Ji-Sung Park and Michael Carrick getting some game time and casting off the shadows of the World Cup finals, as O'Shea admitted afterwards.
"It was great to get a run out last night and I was pleased that we were able to entertain the crowd with a few goals. We got some good fitness work in, especially for the lads who were coming back from the World Cup, that was a big boost for us," O'Shea said.
"It was good for the World Cup lads to get some minutes on the pitch. We now have the Community Shield game to come and that's a game we want to win. But the main thing is the fitness work to make sure that the lads are back, strong and healthy, for the game against Newcastle the following week.
"But on a personal level I was very proud to lead out a Manchester United team into the new Aviva Stadium for the first game, it's something I'll always remember and cherish. Captaining the team for the first game here is something I'll always have.
"The pre-season has gone well for me. The more games I get the stronger I feel. I got back towards the end of last season but I was nowhere near what you'd call fully fit, so I couldn't wait for pre-season to come around again, and once I get more games I'll get stronger and stronger," added O'Shea.
The result last night was never in doubt, United taking the lead as early as the 13th minute through Park, then nabbing a second goal on 25 minutes from Michael Owen, so any notion of a contest was over before the half-hour mark.
United did have time and energy for more goals, with Chicarito (47 mins), Antonio Valencia (60), Park again (63) and Jonny Evans (69) giving United a 6-0 lead, before Dave Mulcahy managed to get on the scoresheet on 78 minutes, Nani then putting an end to the scoring with an 81st-minute penalty.
But O'Shea still came away impressed with aspects of the home side. "Some of the boys in the Airtricity team stood out. I had played with a few of them before. I played with the two keepers (Gary Rogers and Ger Doherty) at underage level for Ireland and I think I played against Alan Kirby before," said O'Shea.
"The lads in midfield were very comfortable on the ball and they sprayed the ball about as well. To be fair to the lad up front (Paddy Madden) he didn't have much support, really. Ndo was playing behind him in the hole but they couldn't really link up enough. But the sub who came on up front, Karl Sheppard, looked quite lively and was able to work the chances. he wasn't afraid to get a shot in.
"We dominated and once we got the early goal, that was the key because that deflated the boys from the Airtricity League a bit. If they had kept it to 0-0 a bit longer they'd have drawn encouragement from that, but we got on top early on. We dominated possession quite easily and we worked the ball quite well last night, better than we'd done in the previous games, so that was a pleasing factor."
Last night was a money-making exercise for those involved. The attendance of 49,861 was a bonus for the FAI as in the build up to the match they were hoping to break the 40,000 mark, but it was also a dry run for bigger things to come, with the first soccer international less than a week away and then, on September 7, the first competitive game at the stadium, at home to Andorra.
"I think the stadium will be great for Ireland. Hopefully the Lansdowne Roar will be here and that the players will give the fans something to roar about," said O'Shea, who resisted the temptation to indulge in a bit of showboating by attempting to take the penalty which United were awarded nine minutes from time, for a foul by Ken Oman on Chicarito.
"No, I would have a fight if I'd tried to take it," O'Shea said. "Obviously it was a friendly occasion but we are very professional about stuff like that and I don't think the other lads would have been too happy to see me going up to take a penalty. If we'd got another penalty then maybe."
There was even some time for a Waterford head-to-head, as late on in the game, substitute Alan Kirby from the home side tried to get past O'Shea down the left wing but O'Shea won the battle against his fellow Déise man, pushing Kirby off the ball and playing away any danger.
"Yeah that was nice as Alan was giving me a bit of stick when he came on," O'Shea joked. "But I was glad to see Kirbs getting a game as he's such a dedicated player, for the league and for Ireland, and it was nice to be up against him. He got my shirt at the end too."