O'Shea urges young pretenders to step up to plate by smashing Greece

Aidan Fitzmaurice

JOHN O'SHEA has challenged Ireland's young guns to take full advantage of their opportunity against Greece tonight and show Giovanni Trapattoni that they deserve to be in the side.

Fringe players Seamus Coleman, Ciaran Clark, James McClean, Robbie Brady and James McCarthy have just 26 caps between them, but will all get to start in tonight's clash with an in-form Greek side at Lansdowne Road.

In our two previous clashes with Greece, players like Barry Quinn, Alan Mahon and Glen Crowe all made their international debuts but failed to make progress after that, so O'Shea has told the current crop of young pretenders to try and step up to the mark.

"It's important for the youngsters to show their increased ability. It's a chance the manager has given them on a very special stage to play for their country. They have shown good attitude in training and they can show that good attitude on the pitch as well," says O'Shea ahead of winning his 84th senior cap.

"I think the young players will get a chance to grow and show the manager that they are capable of being part of the team and the squad going forward."

A lot of eyes will be on the central defensive pairing as Ciaran Clark gets a rare chance in the Irish shirt, playing alongside O'Shea at centre-half, and the skipper admits that he's a fan of Clark.


"Clarky has fantastic potential. He has settled in to Aston Villa's team this year and Paul Lambert has shown a lot of faith in him. We played Villa a few weeks ago and he was outstanding.

"We put them under a lot of pressure in the second half and Clarky stood up to it. He has shown an increased maturity and the manager wants to see if he can rise to the occasion internationally - and I have no doubt that he will, he's a fantastic talent," says O'Shea, who has fond memories of playing Greece as he started an international for the first time against them in a dull 0-0 draw under the temporary stewardship of Don Givens 10 years ago.

"Greece was my first start for Ireland. I remember that the weather was a lot nicer - it wasn't a very memorable game otherwise. It was certainly more enjoyable than my first appearance anyway," jokes O'Shea, in reference to his actual debut when he came on as a sub against Croatia in 2001 and conceded a penalty.

"Greece have been a successful team over the years, they have been underdogs on many occasions, so it will be a good test," he added.

A small crowd is predicted tonight after the disaster at Euro 2012 and then the 6-1 defeat to Germany. But O'Shea maintains that the side have won back some kudos on the back of their win over the Faroe Islands.


"We showed our response when we played the Faroes. Our attitude there was our response as we put in a good performance," he admits.

"We're not kidding ourselves, we know it was against the Faroe Islands and tonight will be a good test against a good European side with plenty of experience. The fans wanted to see a reaction there and we got that. We won the game convincingly.

"When we qualified for the Euros it was very positive but then obviously the results, you wouldn't say they were positive so there is a balance there. For a country the size of Ireland to qualify for the Euros is a big achievement and everyone involved was proud to be behind that. Everyone afterwards was very disappointed and you have to find a balance.

"This is our final game of 2012 and whether it's against Greece, Brazil or the Faroe Islands you want to win the game and that's what we have to do. Not only for ourselves and the fans but the management and everyone involved with Ireland."