Sunday 28 May 2017

'I'll never score in the Stade de France'- John O'Shea laments latest near miss in Paris stadium

13 June 2016; Zlatan Ibrahimović of Sweden in action against John O'Shea of Republic of Ireland during the UEFA Euro 2016 Group E match between Republic of Ireland and Sweden at Stade de France in Saint Denis, Paris, France. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile
13 June 2016; Zlatan Ibrahimović of Sweden in action against John O'Shea of Republic of Ireland during the UEFA Euro 2016 Group E match between Republic of Ireland and Sweden at Stade de France in Saint Denis, Paris, France. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile

Tom Rooney

Ireland captain John O’Shea would not have to be the most superstitious of men to believe that the Stade de France has conspired against him during his years in the green jersey.

Roy Keane would be the first to definitively quash the notion that luck plays any part in the outcome of football match, particularly at the highest level.

You either take your opportunities or you don’t. Few could argue with the soundness of such logic, but Ireland skipper John O’Shea might justifiably take exception to it.

In the Stade de France this afternoon, with Ireland and Sweden entangled in a scoreless gridlock, the 35-year-old was within millimetres of breaking the dam.

As Ciaran Clarke headed on Robbie Brady’s corner, O’Shea, as he has done throughout his career, bounded into the box in search of a killer touch.

Stretching the entirety of his considerable frame, the Waterford man came up short. Had it gone in and Wes Hoolahan’s subsequent strike still followed, 1-1 could very easily have been 2-1, and Ireland would be facing Belgium on Saturday with three points banked.

In the same venue 12 years ago, he missed a sitter during the stalemate against France during World Cup qualification then, in 2009, Thierry Henry’s infamous hand ball scuppered any chance of heading to South Africa the following year.

It’s a striking pattern.

“I was just going to say, I don’t think I’ll ever score in the Stade de France. My self and Clarky spoke about it beforehand that we’d take turns going to the front and back,” O’Shea told RTÉ Sport.

“(Ciaran) Clarky, he’s done brilliantly all night, he won it and I’ve gambled and lost my man, and I should score but with the spin it just bounces away. I saw (Shane) Longy was jumping and celebrating alongside me.”

Of course, Ireland were not disheartened by the slew of near misses that pockmarked a dominant first half performance, and O’Shea was pleased by the nature of their response.

In the 53rd minute, Wes Hoolahan’s magical finish broke the deadlock, and O’Shea joked that that the squad have often made light of Norwich playmaker's apparent weaker right foot.

“But we reacted so good straight away; Jeff almost puts us back ahead and you’re thinking we’ve got to win this game, but look, it’s a much better start than in the tournament the last time and we hopefully have a lot to look forward to.

“I’m frustrated but we reacted brilliantly again. Brady just went over, then Jeff hit the bar, and then Wes scores an absolute wonder-goal after some great work from Seamus Coleman.

“We joke a lot with Wes about his right foot but we saw the quality he has with it, and it was fantastically worked goal as well.”

Ireland lost their intensity after Hoolahan’s intervention and Sweden would take full advantage, ultimately leading to Ciaran Clark’s OG.

O’Shea admitted that such a lapse was unbecoming but was adamant that Ireland will be ready for the challenges to come, starting with Belgium in Bordeaux on Saturday.

“When we take the lead, you can see the team is playing so well, it’s just frustrating we conceded the goal when we did. We’ll dust ourselves down, see how the bodies are and go from there. There’s lots to look forward to.”

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