Wild horses won’t stop Shay Given playing against Croatia, says Ireland goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly
GOALKEEPING coach Alan Kelly has allayed any fears over Shay Given's fitness ahead of Euro 2012.
The 36-year-old Republic of Ireland international played only 45 minutes of Monday night's 0-0 friendly draw in Hungary, albeit a fine 45 minutes, and was a spectator at last night's public training session at the Municipal Stadium in Gdynia.
However, Kelly has no doubts the Republic's most-capped player will be between the posts when they open their campaign against Croatia in Poznan on Sunday evening.
Asked whether Given would play if the game was tonight, Kelly said: "He would play, he would play.
"Anybody who has seen Shay over - what is it, 122 caps, now? - and his determination to play for Ireland, that's not going to go away.
"To play in the big championships, it's a bit of a cliche, but nobody more so than Shay is desperate to play on Sunday. I don't think wild horses keep him from being on that pitch.
"I think his determination and the willingness he has shown over 16 years to play for Ireland now is not going to go away overnight.
"He's fine. We had the open day yesterday in front of a really fantastic crowd, as you saw, and it's just part of his rest and recuperation.
"He played the 45 minutes the night before - I don't know if you noticed, but we were playing head tennis over in the corner and having a bit of craic with the crowd, and he was absolutely busting a get to get involved.
"But I had to put the old reins on him and keep him back. We had travelled overnight and it's nothing out of the ordinary, really."
Given's fitness has been one of the major topics for debate since he damaged his right knee in training the day after meeting up with the squad in Malahide last month.
Indeed, so concerned was he by the problem that he flew to London to consult a specialist and did not train for a week after being told to rest.
But Kelly, who works closely with the Aston Villa man and colleagues Keiren Westwood and David Forde, is convinced Given will be ready for the weekend.
He said: "If he is fit to play on Sunday, then he is fit to play. It's a metaphorical question for anybody.
"If you go out on to the pitch, you might say injuries can happen - anything can happen on the pitch. But once you go over the white line, you are fit and you have put yourself forward.
"Another thing about Shay, in terms of his integrity and honesty, he wouldn't do that if it meant it would in any way impair his performance.
"You have got to keep in mind the fella that you are talking about and the iconic nature of him.
"He wouldn't want to do anything that would lessen our chances. He is a professional of the highest integrity and I have no qualms or no problems with him going forward and playing on Sunday."
Manager Giovanni Trapattoni, unusually, gave his players a day off today, just their second since they assembled in Malahide.
That decision, announced late last night, came less than 24 hours after winger Aiden McGeady had suggested he and several of his team-mates felt jaded in Budapest.
However, amid suggestions that player power had taken its toll on the 73-year-old Italian, Kelly insisted there was nothing unusual about it.
He said: "Well, first and foremost, who are we to question the manager in terms of 50 years' experience?
"In any situation, in a squad situation in a national team or indeed in a club, you are always monitoring, you are always looking at the players, you are always looking to what you can do to help them best prepare for a game.
"You never have a set programme or routine, you have always got to be open to change. You have always got to look at it and think, 'Well hang on, we might change this, we might not'.
"The manager made a decision - it gave the staff a little bit of a day off as well. We have been here 22 days, I think it is now, and I think mentally and physically, it is good for everybody that we have been given a bit of time out.
"It's all about Sunday. Whatever you have got to do to get them in the right frame of mind mentally and physically, the manager makes that decision."