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Kilbane: no green envy

IT would be wrong to say that Kevin Kilbane has already moved on from international football into a new phase of his life, but he's a realistic man and he understands the fundamental law of possession.

Put to one side Kilbane's aching hamstring and (for now) recovering back injury, and simply count the number of consecutive clean sheets Stephen Ward has contributed to during Giovanni Trapattoni and Ireland's seven-game unbeaten run.

Ward started in every one of the seven bar one; Ireland's 2-0 victory over Macedonia in Skopje in June.

That statistic alone guarantees that Ward will start against Andorra and indeed Armenia once he's fit. Trapattoni has certainly moved on.

So when he spoke about the back injury which he must manage over the next few months, Kilbane knew that it provided a handy cover for the fact that Ward now owns the left-full slot and will do so at the very least until Greg Cunningham gets back to full match pace.

Kilbane has been written off before and smiled through it all, but this is different and it is obvious that he senses a turning point.

At the moment, he is uncertain about the root cause of his back injury, but it seems very likely that the hamstring difficulty he is experiencing is related.

"My back seized up on the first day we got in before the Slovakia game and it's not been the best for a couple of weeks," said Kilbane at the official launch in Ireland of apparel supplier Macron yesterday.

"I'm not sure it's just time catching up on me -- I don't know. I had a problem with my sciatic nerve a couple of years ago so that may be relevant but to be honest, I simply don't know for sure what the problem is.


"My back has settled down but it's my hamstring now. I played on the weekend after the Russia game and a few days later felt a reaction. I've never had a hamstring problem before so I simply can't gauge it."

Kilbane is still pushing to be fit, as he always has and as he always will, but he acknowledges that Trapattoni was right to send him home to his club for treatment before the Slovakia game, even if it brought to a close a remarkable story of determination and courage.

"To be honest, my only thought was that I was missing the next game and I wasn't concerned with the run," said Kilbane.

When he was reminded that he fell just four short of Billy Wright's world record, he grinned and explained that the England legend counted friendly internationals in his 70-match consecutive total.

"I know they gave caps for every game in those days," he laughed. "I've played in so many great games and many poor ones too. It had to come to an end at some stage and I couldn't have wished for more."

Not that he won't take more if the chance arises: "I'm not losing sleep about this. If he picks me he picks me and I've been thinking this for the last couple of years," he said.

"Stephen has done very well in the games so if I'm picked in the squad it's a bonus and if I get into the team -- brilliant! I'm happy with the games I've played."


Here was a clear indication that Kilbane has moved on to some extent but, as ever, it would be foolish to write his international obituary. He may still have a role to play in Ireland's drive towards Euro 2012.

Events elsewhere make qualification absolutely necessary now. Ireland's win over Australia in the rugby World Cup has raised the bar, while Dublin's resolute pursuit of an All-Ireland title has shown the way to a group of footballers who have never quite mustered the togetherness demonstrated so effectively in New Zealand and Croke Park last weekend.

Against that background, Trapattoni named an extended squad for the final and decisive fixtures in Euro 2012 Group B against Andorra and Armenia, hoping against hope that all his most important assets come through the next two weeks intact.