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Thursday 21 August 2014

Straight-talking McShane still fully committed to Irish cause as club-mate Bruce heads North

Daniel McDonnell

Published 11/10/2012 | 05:00

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Conor Clifford, left, and Paul McShane during squad training

PAUL McSHANE tends to speak like he plays. He can be quite direct, and not everyone is going to like that.

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It's always entertaining though. The Wicklow man was in good form this week, particularly when discussion turned to an absent friend.

In the post Stephen Ireland 'Grannygate' era, Irish players are fairly used to fielding questions about an old colleague who, for whatever reason, has absented himself from the picture.

When there is mention of Darron Gibson and Kevin Foley, McShane says the right things. He wouldn't describe himself as particularly close to Gibson and ruled out ever responding to exclusion in the way the Everton man did, but respects that the Derry man's decision is his business. Foley? It's awkward for McShane given he was a shock call-up for the Euros at the Wolves man's expense, thus leading to the spurned one feeling that Trapattoni had betrayed him. "I'd love to see him back," says McShane (right), genuinely.

When it comes to another exile, however, diplomacy is replaced by honesty with a hint of mischief. Irish fans in the hostelries around Dublin 4 tomorrow night might discuss the case of Gibson and Foley over a pint, and some might even mention the aforementioned Cobh lad too, but you'd struggle to find anyone who is energised enough to speak at length about Alex Bruce.

That's Alex Bruce, son of Steve, who has two Ireland senior caps -- the first under Steve Staunton, the second in the early days of the Trapattoni era.

This week, Bruce is getting to know his new international colleagues after he was called into the Northern Ireland squad for their World Cup qualifier with Portugal. As his Irish outings came in a friendly arena, the Norwich-born defender was free to switch. He qualifies for both countries through his grandparents.

Bruce joined McShane's current employers Hull this summer after his father was appointed manager. He's received a fair bit of stick from a familiar loud voice in the dressing-room.

"Hopefully it works out there cos I think he's run out of grandparents now," says McShane, with perfect comic timing.

What does he make of the freedom to change?

"Not my cup of tea," he replies. "I don't know what's going through his head to be honest, I don't know. It's just one of those things.

"He's desperate to play international football I think. And he's gone up North now."

He breaks into laughter again, as though he is thinking of adding something else, but holds back.

"What can you say?" he continues, while attempting to keep a straight face. "Yez know yourselves. I just think he wants to play as many international games as he can."

So does McShane. Defensive withdrawals have increased his prospects of involvement against the Germans and the Faroes, although a bug that he picked up on the way back from Kazakhstan last month prevented him from participating in the friendly against Oman that followed.

The 26-year-old revealed that a number of players were struck down, and the finger of blame is being pointed at the food on the plane back from Astana.

On the bright side, he's back in the team with Hull now, although he's long enough in the tooth to know that nothing is guaranteed. After all, Bruce Snr was the manager who sold him from Sunderland to Hull.

"Steve has come in and given me a fair crack, I think," he muses. "I'm still not 100pc sure, but we'll see how it goes.

"He came in and said about clean slates and all, but I think every manager gives that talk when they come to a new place. It's actions instead of words that you need."

Still, you suspect that when McShane reaches retirement age, his words could take him a long way.

Irish Independent

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