O'Shea has a Euro vision

Defender says qualification up there with United medals

FIVE Premier League medals, a Champions League medal, three League Cups and an FA Cup medal - that's what John O'Shea has to cram into the trophy cabinet at home.

But for the 30-year-old, qualification for Euro 2012 is now one of his biggest achievements as the Sunderland player basks in the knowledge that next summer, for the first time in an international career which began a decade ago, he will take part in a major tournament and experience what his old team-mates Wayne Rooney, Patrice Evra and Paul Scholes got to do every second year.

"I've had a decent career at club level, I suppose you could say, but this is up there as one of the top achievements in my life," O'Shea told the Herald.

"That may sound strange to some people because things like the Premier League and the Champions League are so big. But on a personal level, as an Irishman and someone who is very proud to be Irish, this means so much.

"It hurt badly to attempt to qualify for tournaments over the last few years and always miss out, so this is such a proud moment for me. We have well and truly picked ourselves up from Paris and dedicated ourselves to qualifying and now we have done it

"You look at the list of nations who won't be there next summer as they didn't qualify, and then you see that a small country like Ireland will be, and it's just a brilliant feeling - something to be proud of.

"This would be the first major tournament that I have been involved with, so it's a fantastic feeling to know you've qualified and I just can't wait for June now," added O'Shea, who played in one friendly game before the 2002 World Cup finals but didn't make the squad for Japan and Korea.

In the hours after qualification was secured on Tuesday night, some of the Irish squad began to look back in time and consider where they were and how they had got there. Thoughts turned to the very beginning of their careers and all the coaches who had managed their underage teams, the dads and mams who drove them to and from training, all those who helped.

"It means a lot to me but it means the world to my parents, my family and all the people who helped me at the start of my career," O'Shea said.

"I didn't get here on my own - all those times playing for Ferrybank and Waterford Bohs, all the coaches who put in hours working with me - I hope they are proud of me."

Time for reflection and time for advance planning. With the draw for the finals two weeks away, minds will turn to the draw and how Ireland can fare. "This is only half the job, qualification is just part of it, we want to go on and do more," O'Shea promised.

"We're not going to Poland and Ukraine to make up the numbers. The manager has come out with some classic quotes this week, talk about cats being in sacks and what have you, but I have no doubt that he's already planning for the finals and making sure we are ready, he'll be planning some special tactics for the finals.

"We are hard to beat, we are well-organsied, we keep a lot of clean sheets and we can look forward with confidence.

"We have done a great job in qualifying and teams will know they're in for a hard game against us.

"We will enjoy the buzz of qualification and just look forward to the draw next month now. I think we can surprise a few teams out there because we are a hard team to beat.

"We can play a lot better, we know that, but we will look forward to the finals. And when the draw is made, any team that is drawn against us won't be looking forward to playing us," added O'Shea.