Midfielder says Chelsea's spirit in Champions League win can inspire Ireland
THE TALK, for so long now, has been of Ireland's ability to 'do' a Greece or a Denmark and cause an upset at the Euro 2012 finals.
Strange, then, to think of Ireland drawing inspiration from another so-called underdog like Chelsea and finishing off the season with the biggest prize around. The idea of calling Chelsea, given the money spent assembling that team, an underdog may appear laughable but for Ireland man Keith Andrews, Saturday's Champions League final and the eventual destination of the trophy is something else that Ireland can draw upon, now that the Irish players are fully ensconced in their camp, all the holidays over, with the opening game against Croatia now under three weeks away.
"What Chelsea have done this season, with their performances against Barcelona and then Bayern the other night, shows you that anything is possible," Andrews told the media after the first full training session of Ireland's build-up to the finals.
"When you see the players of the calibre of Drogba and Lampard put in the shift necessary when they come up against a team who are, on paper and on current form, a better side.
"You can never say never and whatever happens with us in the summer, it certainly won't be for the lack of effort. If anything, the Euros is easier, I suppose, to win than the World Cup as there are less games.
"If you win your group you are in the quarter-finals so if you can string five or six performances together, you are there."
Yesterday was the first time that the Irish squad have all been together since the friendly against the Czech Republic in February, with two minor exceptions .
Robbie Keane missed yesterday's training session as he was still on his way back from his LA base, while Glenn Whelan was effectively on a one-day honeymoon, the Dubliner having been married in his native city on Saturday.
He trained with his team-mates for the first time today, having been excused from duty yesterday.
"It's three weeks now to the first game, but the time will fly past," says Andrews.
"We have a week here in Dublin, a week in Italy, a night in Budapest and then Poland. We have a few games to concentrate on first but we are fully focused on what we have to do. We're not thinking 'We're ok, the Euros are miles away so we're ok for the time being'. We are eager to crack on and get started.
"We won't be throwing anything different into training or I can't see us using any new formations or systems, we are what we are.
"It's a group that's been together for a few years now, in the main the same nucleus of players, we know our strengths and weaknesses, we know our jobs and tend to stick to them in the games and that has brought us a lot of success," added Andrews.
The Artane man is one of the bedrocks of this Irish team and, barring injury, is almost certain to start against Croatia in Poznan but despite the obvious benefit of Trapattoni's admiration for him and loyalty to him, Andrews insists that no player can take his place in the side for granted.
"You can't rest on your laurels, it would be very foolish to do that. The manager has shown that he is quite prepared to bring in people - James McClean is a prime example - if he feels he has to make a change. Anyone who watches our training sessions would know that, we don't take anything for granted, the intensity is there," said Andrews.
For most of the Irish squad, yesterday was a chance to catch up as a lot has happened since the last time they were in camp, with bad news in the form of relegation for the four Wolves players and contract worries for lads like Darren O'Dea.
"I'm sure the manager will speak to certain individuals who have had obvious disappointments. I room with Stephen Ward, we have been chatting and it's a nice distraction for him to get into a new environment as he's had his disappointment in getting relegated with Wolves.
"It's never nice but to come into a new environment with a fresh set of players is something to look forward to," added Andrews, who did finish the season on a high on personal terms with a solid few months in the West Brom side, Andrews pleased to escape his nightmare at Blackburn.
"This season has been a good one for me. I left Blackburn last summer to go on loan and had a good stint at Ipswich," he explained
"I found myself at West Brom and thankfully I have really enjoyed my time there and played some good football. We have had some fantastic results since January and managed to finish the season in 10th place.
"So I feel sharp and although some people say that you are tired at the end of a long season, that has certainly not come into play. And judging from training yesterday, I don't see that being a factor."