Wednesday 26 October 2016

'We may have the oldest squad but that's an asset' - Ireland's Shay Given

Damian Spellman

Published 09/06/2016 | 14:34

Shay Given of Republic of Ireland during squad training at at UEFA EURO2016 in Versailles, Paris, France. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile
Shay Given of Republic of Ireland during squad training at at UEFA EURO2016 in Versailles, Paris, France. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile

Shay Given has admitted he would have been thrilled just to have won a single cap for the Republic of Ireland.

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The 40-year-old goalkeeper last week became the nation's longest-serving international when the 134th senior appearance of his career against Belarus extended the gap between his debut and his most recent game to 20 years and 65 days, eclipsing Johnny Giles' record in the process.

Personal milestones are incidental for the Stoke man as he attempts to force his way into Martin O'Neill's team for Monday night's opening Euro 2016 fixture against Sweden, although he admits he could never have envisaged representing his country for so long when he made his bow against Russia in March 1996.

Given said: "No, probably not, no. Back in '96, I was delighted to play one game for Ireland, so to think I am still here 20 years later is phenomenal.

"It's great to be here, great to be part of another major tournament, of course, and hopefully it's a successful one.

"I don't know if it's good or bad when you're the oldest player involved - I never set out to do that. I'm just delighted to be here, to be honest."

A veteran of both the 2002 World Cup finals campaign in the Far East and Euro 2012 in Poland, Given has been a central character for Ireland for those two decades and has seen everything the game can throw at a player at both club and international level.

The current Republic squad is one of the oldest at the tournament - senior men Given, skipper Robbie Keane and defender John O'Shea have a staggering total of 388 caps between them - but Ireland's vastly-experienced keeper is not convinced that is necessarily a bad thing.

He said: "I'm a good man to ask, I'm the oldest, aren't I? No, I don't know. We have got a good experienced squad and we have got some young players coming through as well.

"We might be the oldest squad at the tournament, but a few of us have been here before and I think that will stand us in good stead."

What may also stand them in good stead is having manager Martin O'Neill and assistant Roy Keane and their coaching staff on board for another campaign with the Football Association of Ireland having announced on Tuesday evening that they have all extended their contracts.

Given welcomed the news and, asked if the team had progressed under their charge, added: "I'd like to think so.

"We are at a major tournament and people will obviously question after the tournament how well we do, but it's up to us as players and staff to go out and show the people we have improved and we have progressed."

Keane, of course, is box office wherever he goes, as he was in Cork last week when his outspoken comments about the team's lacklustre performance against Belarus made plenty of headlines.

Given said: "He's a big character, but he was a big player and we have all got huge respect for Roy Keane. Whatever you might read and whatever he might say sometimes as well, we have got big respect for him.

"When he speaks to you, you listen to him because he has been such a great player and he has had some great experiences all round the world, so we have got huge respect."

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