Experienced O'Shea out to ensure Ireland pass 'tough' Scottish test
Published 13/06/2015 | 02:30
At yesterday's pre-match press conference, when Martin O'Neill called for his players to be 'cool under pressure', it was perhaps fitting that the one sitting on his left was John O'Shea.
The 34-year-old has played in plenty of big internationals during his 102 caps and this evening's crunch qualifier with Scotland certainly ranks high on the list of importance.
On the domestic front, O'Shea's days with Man United during which he played in a Champions League final may seem like a distant memory, especially on the back of just having narrowly avoided relegation with Sunderland but he has proven that he is a man for the big occasion.
His late equaliser in Germany may well prove crucial in deciding if Ireland qualify for Euro 2016 and after captaining Sunderland to safety, he admitted that this evening holds an altogether different type of pressure.
"It's totally different. It's one of those things that because you're playing for your country, you want to get to major tournaments," O'Shea stressed.
"We need to get a result against Scotland, that's the next game in the campaign and it's one we want to win."
Having lost to Scotland in Celtic Park last November, O'Neill's side can ill afford to lose further ground in Group D but when pressed on whether or not there was any margin for error now, O'Shea remained remarkably calm.
"You could easily say that but there's still games to go in the campaign after this but we want to win this game," the Waterford native insisted.
"That'll take care of the rest of the campaign hopefully but we don't want to look too far ahead.
"It's a massive game against Scotland, one we're well prepared for and one we're looking forward to.
"The manager spoke about the elements of the game; the passion and the desire but also the composure to play that final pass.
"It is a derby game and it's going to be tight and I think those elements are going to be crucial.
"There's going to be chances when we're attacking and it's about that decision you make, do you take the player on or do you make the pass?
"We've got to hope the players get those crucial decisions right and hopefully we score goals from it," he added.
O'Shea's wealth of experience afford him such a relaxed approach to what is a massive game but O'Neill is fully aware of how important his influence is on the rest of the squad.
All week, the Scottish camp have done their best to pile the pressure on Ireland but having played under Alex Ferguson for 12 years, O'Shea knows a thing or two about trying to get into the opposition's head.
"Mind games? Oh my god. Look, we need to win the game if we want to qualify for France, no matter who we're playing today," he smiled.
"We need to win the game so they can say what they want."
O'Shea may not be buying into Scotland's attempted "mind games" but he does realise the threat that Scotland pose this evening.
He is likely to come up against his Sunderland team-mate, Steven Fletcher who is part of a dangerous attack, but O'Shea was keen to point to the balance that they have all around the pitch.
"You don't just look at the attacking players, you look at the whole package. It'll be a tough test for us, no doubt," he said.
"They've got players all over the pitch and that's why we know it'll be a good test. We're looking forward to it.
"There won't be much laughing and joking before the game but afterwards it'll be the same. We'll (himself and Fletcher) shake hands and get on with things, whatever the result is.
"You know the player and obviously get on very well with him but ultimately, you want to beat him and that's it."
As one of the most senior members of the Ireland side, O'Shea believes that the younger players are primed to make a statement in a green jersey.
He has been in their position in his fledgling days and now he is leading those around them.
"The squad has got a mixture of everything that the others (Ireland squads) have had - that experience and youth and the vibrancy from younger players.
"You look at Jeff (Hendrick), Seamus (Coleman), James McClean, they've all got good energy and obviously plenty of experience and ability to win matches and hopefully that's the case today."
Those younger players will be expected to provide the spark but as O'Neill gets set for the biggest game of his Ireland tenure, stalwarts like O'Shea remain just as important to the cause.