herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

Shay relieved to swap struggle of City life for Ireland

SHAY GIVEN says it's a relief for him to swap the bench at Manchester City for the buzz of being Ireland's No1 for the vital European Championship qualifier at home to Russia.

The 34-year-old will shake off the cobwebs this week when he lines out at Lansdowne Road to win his 107th cap, and his status with Ireland is a world away from the situation at Manchester City where Given has been relegated to second choice and has played just once for City this season.

"If anything, it's a relief to come here and get involved, it's a real buzz for me to be here and training, knowing that I have a real chance of playing at the weekend so that gives me a buzz," Given told the Herald as he continued preparations for the vital clash with Russia which could, depending on the result, establish Ireland as the favourites to win the group and effectively kill off any Russian hopes of automatic qualification.

There are concerns over the match fitness of some Irish players as four men likely to start on Friday -- Given, Robbie Keane, Glenn Whelan and Kevin Kilbane -- have started very few league games for their clubs in recent weeks, but Given has told Irish fans not to worry about his readiness to play.

"For the outfield players, match fitness may be more of an issue if they're not playing for their club but not for a keeper, I don't have to run too far. And no matter what is going on at club level, myself, Robbie and Glenn Whelan will give our all on Friday night," Given added.

"This is a great chance for us to get an advantage over the Russians. It would take the wind out of their sails if we can beat them, it would put some daylight between us and Russia if we can get the three points."

Despite their Gaelic football side flopping and with Finn Harps stuck in the bottom half of the League of Ireland, Given has also spoken of the international soccer scene as a source of sporting pride for the folk of Donegal these days.



Elevation

The Ireland senior squad now has two men from the county thanks to the elevation of Seamus Coleman to Giovanni Trapattoni's panel.

The Donegal diaspora has provided us with two more senior internationals in Aiden McGeady and James McCarthy, and another one, Everton's Shane Duffy, will this week be on duty with the Republic's U19 side -- but a senior call-up is only a matter of time.

"It's fantastic to have another Donegal man in the squad," said Given. "Seamus Coleman has come on leaps and bounds in the past few years, and it's nice that I'm not on my own anymore. It's great for the fans, all the Donegal fans will be looking out for us a bit more now with myself and Seamus there in the squad.

"It's great to have as many different county players in the team as possible. The nucleus is still from Dublin but we play Dubs v Culchies in the five-a-side games and the culchies always win," added Given, who still remembers his own trips up to the capital to see the national team when he was a kid.

"I don't remember my first Ireland game as a fan in Lansdowne, but I remember going up to lots of games with my dad.

"You'd get a day off school, which was special, travel up at a time when the roads weren't so good and it'd take us a long time to get up to Dublin, only getting home in the early hours of the morning.

"But it was always special to be there to watch your country play."

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