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'I'll never say no to Ireland'

IT'S BEEN a long time on the road with little reward.

Ever since he played at right back in a World Cup qualifier at home to Montenegro over three years ago, the Republic of Ireland have played 18 competitive games. Paul McShane's been on the fringes for most of them (an unused sub 11 times), has played just once (away to France in the World Cup playoff) and has not started a competitive game since then.

Yet the Hull City man is not in a sulk, but in Dublin and part of the squad arriving for international duty again this week with only a chance of featuring against Germany and the Faroe Islands, that opportunity being teased before McShane because of injuries to defenders Richard Dunne and Sean St Ledger.



Exile

But McShane says he never even considered following the example of team-mates like Darron Gibson and Kevin Foley, who are in self-imposed international exile due to their treatment by Giovanni Trapattoni and the lack of game time afforded them.

"I travelled to Kazakhstan and I'd travel to China if I had to, I don't mind," says McShane. "For me it's just great to be part of this set-up and I know there are kids out there who'd give their right arm just to be part of this so I am happy to be with the squad. That's just the way I am, I'd never quit or turn my back on this.

"I'd always be available for when that chance comes, it's not a good thing to make yourself unavailable.

"It's a long time since I played for Ireland in a game that wasn't a friendly, but you keep going and make sure you are prepared for the next time you're needed.

"I have been in all the squads since then and of course I'd like to have played more, but I will keep going."

A couple of names crop up in conversation with McShane, names that underline the side issues of international football, with one club-mate at Hull City who would give anything for a place in the Ireland squad (the uncapped Dubliner Stephen Quinn) and another team-mate who has turned his back on the Republic and thrown in his lot with Northern Ireland (Alex Bruce).

Bruce and McShane were in the senior Ireland squad together a number of times and Bruce came off the bench to replace McShane in the Ireland side when he won his second and final cap, and they also lined out in the same Ireland U21 side on two occasions. "I've given Alex a fair bit of stick over that," McShane says of the decision by Bruce to change sides, Bruce declaring for the North through the fact that his paternal grandmother was from Co Down.

"I hope it works out for Alex with the North because he has no more grandparents left to declare for," he joked. "Myself and Stephen Quinn gave him a bit of stick over what he's decided to do, you don't do that, you don't change countries, it amazes me.

"It's strange to see someone change countries and then you have someone like Stephen Quinn, who would do anything to be here. He has done really well with Hull since he came to the club in the summer.

"I know him well, we have been playing against each other since we were 12. He was with Cherry Orchard and I was at Joey's. He was always the stand-out player for the Orchard even though he was tiny, those games were always great battles.

"Later on he was great for Sheffield United and stood out for them as well. He has been brilliant for Hull and he could easily come into the international squad and do well. He is a great player with a good brain and really good attitude, he'd be a good addition to the squad and I know he'd love to just get a call-up to the squad and with the way he's playing he deserves to be here."

McShane has been out in the cold at club level but he hopes that is ending as he's been back in the Hull City side for their last two games. "I was out for a long time I suppose," he says.



Survival

"It has been hard at times over the last couple of years, extremely hard but you have to keep going and come through on the other side, football is about the survival of the fittest.

"I did play some football in the time I was out of things at Hull. I was on loan to Crystal Palace for a bit, but hopefully I will still be in the Hull side when I get back from the international break.

"You need games to keep yourself sharp, you can only have that match sharpness if you are playing games. I always looked after myself and trained well, I never went AWOL or anything like that," he says, aware that Ireland's injury situation could see him return to the side on Friday. Stephen Kelly is the favourite to play at right back if, as expected, John O'Shea moves into central defence alongside Darren O'Dea, but McShane is hopeful.

"We'll see how the week pans out but if I get the nod I will be ready. I will be mentally prepared to play, and Germany at home in a qualifier is the kind of game you love to play in.

"Germany are such a powerful side and this is as big a test as we could have. Hopefully we will learn from what happened at the Euros and put that into practice against the Germans, that we can come out with a positive result. We conceded goals at bad times in the Euros so if we can cut that out of our game we can do better in this campaign.

"A draw would be a decent result for us. They are second in the world and have never lost an away qualifier but we are looking forward to it. You want to test yourself against the best."


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