Monday 5 December 2016

Daniel McDonnell: Shay Given deflated by limp end to cup adventure

Veteran will have to quickly get over Wembley pain with Irish commitments on the agenda today

Published 01/06/2015 | 02:30

Theo Walcott is foiled by Jores Okore and Shay Given of Aston Villa during the FA Cup Final
Theo Walcott is foiled by Jores Okore and Shay Given of Aston Villa during the FA Cup Final
Shay Given was disappointed by Aston Villa's defeat but is now concentrating on his future duties

There is only so much a player can say in the aftermath of a heavy cup final defeat, especially a goalkeeper who was exposed to the full force of an Arsenal onslaught.

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Shay Given had planned a different ending to his Saturday evening. As the majority of his Aston Villa team-mates walked through the interview area with heads bowed and ignoring requests for a word, the 39-year-old dropped his bag on to the team bus and then returned to offer his perspective on a crushing disappointment.

"What can you say? You've lost 4-0 in the FA Cup Final and it's not a nice feeling," sighed Given, who functions as the unfortunate link between Arsene Wenger's first cup win in 1998 and his record equalling sixth success to give the Frenchman's turbulent campaign a happy ending.

Just like 17 years ago, when he collected a loser's medal in Newcastle colours, the Donegalman had to acknowledge that the superior side had prevailed. What hurt was the margin of defeat, especially the injury-time strike from Olivier Giroud which stung the pride.

"Arsenal are a great team, they deserved to win and no matter how tough it is to say, and how tough it is to take the ball out of the net four times, it's the truth," he said.

"I did say last week that we all needed to have an eight or a nine out of 10 game to beat Arsenal and we didn't have enough players do that.

"It's disappointing, obviously. The best team won. Arsenal were a class act and we weren't good enough. It's just a shame (about) the 4-0. The last goal is a real kick in the teeth. It looks like a proper hammering."

Given will have to pick himself up quickly now that he's back as first choice with both club and country. With a wry smile, he acknowledges he simply doesn't have the time to mope about a miserable afternoon.

After a day of rest yesterday, he's due in Portmarnock today ahead of Sunday's friendly with England and the crunch qualifier with Scotland on June 13.

Overall, 2015 has actually been a triumph for the veteran seeing as he's regained a day-to-day purpose in his work. There are members of Martin O'Neill's panel whose fortunes have deteriorated in the same period.

Yet it's inevitable that a pang of regret will accompany his journey to Dublin.

"It's not a nice way to finish you know," he added. "But I've got two big games coming up with Ireland so I've got to keep my head right for them. We've got to go again."

Given confirmed that, physically, he's in good nick following an injury scare. "There's no issue," he said. "It wasn't a major doubt, just a bit of a tight groin last week. It wasn't worth risking in the Burnley game and the gaffer just said to sit it out really so it's no problem. I feel totally fine."

With Arsenal matching their quality with work rate, a ponderous and nervous Villa group were on the back-foot within minutes.

Jack Grealish, who cut a despondent figure afterwards, found himself tracking back as opposed to making positive inroads, and was seized upon by either Hector Bellerin or the covering Francis Coquelin on the rare occasions he threatened. He lost the battle with the occasion.

Tim Sherwood spoke briefly about the international dilemma facing the teenager during his holidays. "I know he wasn't going to do anything by the end of this season but he will need to make a decision," he asserted.

Given's form is what concerns O'Neill at the moment and he was on his toes from the outset, performing stretches inside the opening minutes to test his body when the action was elsewhere.

An acrobatic stop to deny Laurent Koscielny brought the crowd to their feet, but there would be no respite and he was indebted to Kieran Richardson for a pair of last ditch blocks to retain parity.

Despite falling behind to Theo Walcott's rasper before the interval, the Villa netminder felt there could be a twist in the tale. Instead, there was a swerve in the ball from an Alexis Sanchez thunderbolt five minutes after the restart that effectively settled the outcome.

At first glance, the keeper's role came under scrutiny and he sought out the DVD to make sure that it confirmed his gut instinct about the confusing flight of the ball.

"I don't know if you've seen it from the behind the goal angle but it moves all over the shop," he said. "I've seen it on the video and it's a great strike, it's moved all over the place and then off the bar. That knocked the stuffing out of us.

The Villa dressing room was understandably quiet afterwards, but Given had every reason to be pleased with hisa own display.

Considering he finished last term as a stand-in coach with a huge question mark over his playing future, he can think of pre-season with renewed optimism. Before then, his country needs him.

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