Thursday 29 September 2016

After disastrous 2012 campaign under Trap, John O'Shea hails 'different' Martin O'Neill in Euros preparations

Published 27/05/2016 | 02:30

Martin O’Neill is laying it on the line for his prospective Euro 2016 squad members. Photo: PA News
Martin O’Neill is laying it on the line for his prospective Euro 2016 squad members. Photo: PA News

John O'Shea is nodding profusely.

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Martin O'Neill is laying it on the line for his prospective Euro 2016 squad members; even those who, like Kevin Doyle, may have to travel thousands of miles for just a few minutes of action.

"If I'd been told years ago that I had the chance to travel the other side of the world to play a game…" says the 1982 Northern Ireland World Cup player. "I don't think I would have a problem.

"And then you ask what will we do if the young players get bored? I'd be so, so sorry for them!

"Playing in a competition that comes around every four years!"

O'Shea's accumulated 35 years, 110 caps and one European Championship appearance inform wizened agreement with his manager, even if perspective is clearer at his stage in life.

Roy Keane once told a few of us "that lad" - gesturing to then Old Trafford colleague O'Shea - should be taken to the 2002 World Cup by Mick McCarthy; unsurprisingly, this was another area of disagreement within that celebrated managerial/player relationship.

"It wasn't as if I came close to going," the Waterford man demurs now.

O'Shea would soon become the established international that Keane predicted, though, yet it would take him a decade before he could contemplate crossing the threshold of a major tournament. He knows what it takes.

Possibility

"If a manager is telling you that there's still a possibility of some places available, you'd be delighted because then you believe what you are doing in training, or in a match can get you in that 23."

Compared to Giovanni Trapattoni four years ago - he announced his squad more than a month before kick-off - you sense O'Neill may still be fiddling with a fax machine as the seconds count down to 11pm on Tuesday evening.

Trap, always infused with certainty, used his final warm-up game as a dry run for the opener against Croatia. Better or worse?

Asked about the contrast, O'Shea's answer is formed by his manager's interjection - "Different," mutters O'Neill insistently.

"It's just different," O'Shea avers. "It's a case of giving everyone a fair chance." O'Shea, who will remain at Sunderland for at least one more year, has not decided yet if he will remain with Ireland. Pointedly, he does reflect the lighter mood about this squad compared to the ascetic, controlling Italian.

"It's a different squad, different management and there are lots of different elements involved in it to make me believe that it's going to be very different," he adds.

We must wait to see if different proves better.

Irish Independent

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