O'Shea keen to focus on the positive

Paul Hyland

JOHN O'SHEA is taking to the senior statesman role in Giovanni Trapattoni's often chaotic new Ireland with a will and, like all footballers in that position, he's singing a happy song.

Trapattoni is very lucky with some of the players he has been fortunate enough to work with. You can't buy the kind of calm authority a man like O'Shea brings to the table.

And in circumstances which are, to say the least, a tad strained, O'Shea's confident call to arms for Kazakhstan and plea to look forward rather than back will appeal to many who don't fancy another acrimonious wind-up of an Ireland international manager's time.

By now, it is obvious that Trapattoni and the FAI are locked in an embrace by necessity and that July and August should have been spent searching for a bright new manager to take up the challenge of moulding a team from the group of young players Trapattoni's has largely paid lip service to until circumstances forced his hand.

Instead, the young players have to adapt to his rigid and uncompromising system but, like most good professionals, they will get their heads down and do what they are told, even if Trapattoni often targets them for public criticism.

There was plenty of hard work going on in Portmarnock yesterday and O'Shea, like the rest of the squad, had a good sweat on when he stopped for a chat.

It was very noticeable that the traditional end-of-session game was played at sharp pace and with plenty of good-natured verbals echoing across the Portmarnock seafront.

It was something O'Shea was quick to mention. His focus now is Kazakhstan and everything else is wasted energy.


"The mood in the camp, as you can see there, is very positive. It's going to be a tough start with the travelling and the unknown aspect as well, a little bit like Armenia in the last group," he said.

"But, look, if we play to our strengths we can cause them lots of problems, give everyone a bit of lift, forget about the Euros and get off to a good start."

"We want to get the feel-good factor back again and it would help if we can get a win in our first qualifying game.

"We've been watching a few videos and they're quite a fast, counter-attacking team and we'll have to be prepared for it," he said.

Kazakhstan's lowly FIFA ranking (145) suggests that a comparison with Armenia doesn't flatter the team which caused Russia and Slovakia all sorts of problems during qualifying for Euro 2012.

"The rankings do suggest that but we have seen some of the clips," O'Shea went on. "I know on video clips they don't show you the bad stuff, they show you the good stuff and teams can often look better than they are."

"If we're not up to our usual standards for a qualifying game we will get caught out because the pitch is going to be an unknown and we will only train on it the night before.

"Fingers crossed we don't get caught out. If we are professional and our usual selves, I can see us getting the win.

"Ideally, away from home in an international game, it's such a cliché now but you see some strange results in international football.

"These smaller countries are improving their tactics a lot and their set-piece plays especially.

"If we are not fully concentrated they can catch you out."

O'Shea is more than keen to move on from the disappointment of Euro 2012, even if the hangover is still recent and the squad in flux.

"I try not to think about Poland, as you have to move on. It's one of those things. You do think about it a lot as in football the things that hurt you the most (are) the things you have to work on and improve and that's what we will try to do.

"We're starting World Cup qualifying on Friday. It's one of those things that the more you think about the Euros, the more disappointed and angry you feel.

"So the sooner we can get a qualification win under our belt the better. And no better place to start than in Kazakhstan."

The tough path ahead has left Ireland fans more than anxious that Brazil 2014 will go ahead without them but O'Shea's takes solace from the fact that other nations in the group are feeling the same way.

"I spoke to Seb Larsson and they are thinking along the same lines. Everyone seems to be counting Germany for first spot and then it's the battle for second. But if you go into it like that..." he said with a shrug.

"We can cause Germany problems but let's be honest and realistic about it, Germany have a fantastic squad with unbelievable young players and experience too. It will be tough to top the group but we are more than capable of coming second."

O'Shea has close connections with both hot topics in the squad this week - Darron Gibson and David Meyler.

"Well, that's obviously Darron's personal choice, it's one of those things. He spoke to the manager about it and that's the decision they have come to and you have to respect it. We will wait and see what happens with the next few squads.

"David is in fantastic form. He's obviously worked his way back from some serious injuries and he's worked hard to get back. And the more football he gets, the better he'll get too."