Sleepless nights for excited Aiden McGeady as Euro 2012 adventure approaches
AIDEN McGeady has admitted the prospect of the Republic of Ireland's Euro 2012 adventure is keeping him awake with excitement.
The 25-year-old Spartak Moscow winger was a key member of the side which secured qualification for Giovanni Trapattoni's men in a comfortable play-off victory over Estonia in November, and now he cannot wait for the tournament to begin.
Asked if he thinks about the finals every day, McGeady said: "Yes, to be honest with you, I do. I wake up at night dreaming about it.
"It's that sort of hallowed ground that you want to get to a major finals.
"The thing is, we have qualified but now you have to just make sure you stay fit and give yourself the best possible chance to shine at the Euros.
"Everyone is just absolutely buzzing for it. We are still on a high, really, from November, everyone is still buzzing about it and really looking forward to the first gathering up at the end of May and then the Championships themselves.
"It's going to be fantastic."
Ireland will begin their preparations for the summer festivities in Poland and Ukraine with a friendly against the Czech Republic at the Aviva Stadium on Wednesday night, and will face Bosnia-Herzegovina in Dublin on May 26 and Hungary in Budapest on June 4 before heading into a daunting series of fixtures in Eastern Europe.
The Republic open their Group C campaign against Croatia in Poznan before tackling reigning World and European champions Spain in Gdansk and then Trapattoni's native Italy back in Poznan.
However, while the draw could have been kinder, McGeady and his team-mates will embark upon their adventure convinced their stay could be extended beyond the group stage.
The former Celtic midfielder said: "To be honest, the fact that we are there speaks volumes. We weren't expected to qualify and we did.
"Now that we are there, we are going to try to do everything we can to get out of the group.
"We are obviously in a very tough group, but our record has been good against Italy in the last few years, and Croatia, we played them here not too long ago and drew 0-0.
"Spain, obviously everyone is talking about them. They are the favourites to win the competition.
"But it's not totally unrealistic for us to get out of the group. We will give ourselves every chance."
Trapattoni has already confirmed he will rely largely upon the men who got his side to the finals when he selects his squad, although his inclusion of Everton defender Shane Duffy and Sunderland winger James McClean in the party of this week's friendly perhaps left the door ajar for a late run.
The Italian has indicated both will have some involvement against the Czechs, with the nation eager to see at close hand in particular what former Derry City flyer McClean has been doing to excite the locals on Wearside since his emergence under Martin O'Neill.
McGeady admits he has seen little of the 22-year-old, but has heard only good things about him.
He said: "To be honest, in the last month or so, I have been everywhere. I have been in Spain and in training camps, and I have not seen that much football.
"But I have seen bits here and there and from what I know, he has been performing well and he looks like a really good prospect.
"He looks direct and pacy, and he looks as if he has got a good cross on him and a knack of scoring goals as well.
"He's been doing very well, so he is obviously worthy of his call-up."
McClean, of course, would be in direct competition with McGeady for a place in the team, but that does not faze the older man at all.
He said: "It's the same at club level. There are always players vying for the same position in international teams.
"If you have a player who's wanting to take your place, of course you need to up your game.
"I try to up my game anyway, but obviously if I do, people will say it's down to the fact that someone is breathing down my neck, but we will see what happens.
"I am looking to improve and striving to do better with Ireland anyway."
Meanwhile, Kieran Westwood and Stephen Kelly are out of the squad for the Czech friendly.
Westwood has a wrist injury, while Kelly is ruled out with a thigh problem.
Keith Fahey and Kevin Doyle sat out training this morning but mostly as a precaution and are expected to be fit.
James McClean and Shane Duffy both played a part in this morning's session after their call-ups to the squad last week