Given scare adds to injury jitters

News of keeper's scan sends a shiver up spine

Paul Hyland

NORMALLY the sight of Richard Dunne and Shay Given stepping out on the Portmarnock prom among flocking trippers wearing grins the size of Lambay Island is a sight to gladden the heart.

In Gannon Park a few moments later, Marco Tardelli is shelling out injury news like a croupier and the two images don't quite match.

Within hours, another email from the FAI's vigilant press office and suddenly, a shiver up the spine. Shay Given gone to London for a scan.

Most football managers treat injury news like the fifth secret of Fatima, but there's been a flood of it out of Camp Trap.

Mindful of events ten years ago when poor communication was at the root of many evils, every knock and niggle has been announced but until news of Given's away day, it was easy to dismiss most of it as a bit of an information smokescreen. John O'Shea was the focus of most attention and that hasn't changed. He remains a serious worry for the tournament. Everything else was to fill space.


Sifting through it all, it is clear that Trapattoni wants to protect his best team as much as he can and if he could, he would leave them all on the bench until Budapest. Maybe that's an exaggeration but the sentiment is accurate.

Whatever the financial dynamics currently occupying the FAI, Trapattoni's priority is to deliver his best team against Croatia and the send-off against Bosnia carries too many risks for his liking.

He will not allow anyone with a hint of an injury onto the pitch and anyone who does line-up at the start of the game will only be there if the manager believes they are fully fit.

Dunne will be fine. Nobody could look as happy as he did and have any real concerns about his fitness and with that as a ready reckoner, Given didn't seem too bothered either.

Obviously, something changed and Given's trip to England for another opinion on what is obviously a problem he has had to deal with before is, at the very least, a cause for concern.

The news that Sean St Ledger is also in cotton wool and that Darren O'Dea and perhaps Paul McShane are in the running to start as Ireland central defensive partnership against Bosnia added further to the general feeling of disquiet.

Tardelli did observe that it is better to have all these scares now rather than in Poland which is fair enough, but the general health of the squad has apparently declined rapidly and this has caused understandable alarm.

Before the final day of the Premier League season, the official line was that everyone other than Kevin Foley and Keith Fahey were fine and O'Shea was the only addition by the time the final 23 were announced a day later.


Now, eight players have an asterisk attached to their name and only a few weeks to remove it.

If calamity does assail a key defender or two, O'Dea (pictured left) stands in line to benefit most; most immediately against Bosnia.

"I will be ready either way. I hope everyone is fit because that will give us the best possible chance. But if I get in, that will be a massive occasion for me and something I would really look forward to and thrive on."

O'Dea is keenly aware that defenders are dropping like flies: "I am trying to injure them! No, obviously you keep your eye on it and you are not stupid but I think everyone will be all right come the Euros."

If Dunne and St Ledger are rested and the chance comes against Bosnia, O'Dea understands the drill and like every other player who has spoken so far, his attention is fixed.


"If Dunney is not fit, then hopefully I can play a part. Even if he is fit, maybe at some stage in the game I will come on, but I would just like to play some part in it on Saturday. I think Dunney has probably earned his place in the Euros no matter how well I do.

"You need to just show you can be relied on and trusted.

"That's the main thing. As a winger or a centre-forward, you can maybe come on for 10 minutes and affect the game.

"As a centre-half you just need to be reliable and I think I have done that before, so hopefully if I do get another chance, I can do it again."

O'Dea has no delusions about his status as defensive cover and he was remarkably frank when asked whether he could perhaps cover at left-back if the need arose.

"I don't think I could play left-back in international football, that's the honest truth. I could probably do it in the Championship and do a job for someone."