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Kerr: Shay a hard act to follow

BRIAN Kerr believes that Shay Given will be hard to replace in the international team, though the former Ireland manager thinks Given may be tempted to change his mind and re-emerge from the international football retirement home.

Given announced his retirement from the Irish squad last night, having played for 16 years under four managers.

He won 27 of his 125 caps under Kerr, who was in charge from 2003-2005, but Kerr was an admirer of the keeper even before he took over from Mick McCarthy as the senior team boss.

"Looking at it as a manager, he was a great goalkeeper, but a great guy to have around too," Kerr told the Herald.

"He was very hard-working, very determined and focused and very eager to do well.

"As a person, he was top class but he was such a good keeper as well. He pulled off so many top-class saves in so many games.

"But he was a great lad with a great interest in the game," added Kerr.

"When I was managing the youth teams he would always take an interest, he would take time out to speak to the young players and that always meant a lot to them.

"Even a few words from someone like Shay Given would mean the world to a young lad. He was always aware of what was going on at underage level.

"But he was interested in all sports, he was at the Katie Taylor fight last week and that just shows his interest."

Kerr had the luxury of playing Given in every competitive game during his reign as senior team boss so he knows how important the Donegal man is, and Kerr even hints at a possible return.

"I wouldn't rule out the idea of him coming back to play for the team again. Maybe this isn't the end of the story.

"He has already said that he'd come back in an emergency and not every player says that when they quit international football," Kerr reflected.

"He has been involved with the Irish team for a long while and I think it won't be until the international dates come around and he's not travelling that he will miss it a bit.

"I am surprised at the timing of it as it seems a bit sudden, seeing as it wasn't the case that he'd lost his place as the number one.

"A lot of the English club managers are using international football as a bargaining tool now, saying to a player 'if you shorten your international career I'll lengthen your contract with the club', though I don't know if that's happened here," added Kerr.

"We're not all that well served with keepers at the moment, but you only need to have one and now it's going to be Westwood's chance to shine.

"Shay had to be patient for a long time after Packie (Bonner) retired, then Dean Kiely got frustrated and retired out of that frustration.

"Westwood looks like a decent keeper, but after that I'm not sure that we have the depth of quality

"Westwood didn't get a run at Euro 2012 even though he'd done well in the game against Hungary in the build-up to the finals, and Shay didn't have one of his best performances for Ireland at the Euros, by his standards."