Tuesday 6 December 2016

Last man standing O'Shea aiming to banish 2012 blues

Published 25/03/2016 | 02:30

John O'Shea in jovial mood as he answers a question at yesterday's press conference (SPORTSFILE)
John O'Shea in jovial mood as he answers a question at yesterday's press conference (SPORTSFILE)

Veteran John O'Shea is the last man standing from the most recent Republic of Ireland team which played Switzerland in Dublin.

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The date was October 12, 2005, the occasion the last of the Irish World Cup qualifiers for the 2006 finals, and the current Sunderland skipper was earning his 28th cap.

Some matches are burned into the memory banks for the right reasons, but Ireland v Switzerland that day did not qualify for O'Shea's highlights reel.

The game ended in a drab 0-0 draw, and the result confirmed that the Republic would be watching the 2006 World Cup on television.

Failure to roll over the Swiss also signalled the end of Brian Kerr's tenure as manager of the Irish team. All in all, a day to forget by everyone concerned.

Eleven years have passed and O'Shea has soldiered on with the Boys in Green, bringing his caps total to 109.

His Ireland team-mate Robbie Keane also played in that 2005 match but is ruled out for this one, so it's left to O'Shea - assuming he is selected - to maintain the link between the '05 group and the current side.

Opportunity

The Waterford native remains as keen as ever to perform for his country, and the prospect of France and Euro 2016 offers a golden opportunity to pass another landmark in his career, as the inevitable end nears.

Asked if he thinks differently about international level at this stage for that reason, O'Shea replied: "Not particularly.

"Obviously there's not going to be many more (matches), so you're just focused on enjoying every game that comes, and that's the way I've always looked at it.

"It will be the same looking forward to the summer where we're looking to progress out of the group and take it from there."

There is also the matter of burying the bad memories of Euro 2012 in Poland where the Republic played in a genuine 'Group of Death' and got turned over by Croatia, Spain and Italy.

O'Shea sighed when the question came up about that experience four years ago at the pre-match media conference in the Aviva Stadium yesterday.

"I did my best to erase it from my memory, but people keep bringing it up.

"The preparation is important. This is a different side, a different group of players. Everything is different. Fingers crossed, we'll have a fully-fit squad to pick from.

"If we have that, hopefully we'll have different results this time," he said.

Tonight, neither the manager nor the players face anything like a serious amount of pressure. This is the chance for some of the likely lads to parade their credentials for a ticket to France this summer, and O'Shea's job will be to help younger players as much as he can.

Defender Shane Duffy, 24, of Blackburn Rovers has caught the eye and O'Shea has heard good reports.

"He's doing fantastic at club level. There's been stories linking him with different teams and it shows how well he's progressing," he said.

This game, and the Slovakia match on Tuesday, offers a chance for O'Shea to take a break from Sunderland's relegation battle, although he has no difficulty in switching from club into country mode as required.

"I've done it all through my career. It's straightforward because of the atmosphere created here," he said.

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