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Paris pain still hurts - McShane

TWO years on and the world has moved on from Paris and that play-off.

But Paul McShane, who had more than a ringside seat for the infamous handball as he was the closest person to Thierry Henry when the Frenchman did what he did, says he still bears the scars of that night in the French capital, and that even a win for Ireland in the nation's latest experience with play-off football will not banish the nightmare of Paris.

"It will always hurt. Speaking personally, I will always have those scars of what happened that night. The main thing is to qualify, it's been too long -- 10 years -- since we reached a major tournament and we just need to get there," Hull City man McShane told the Herald.

"We have to wipe that from our minds and get to the European Championship finals.

"It's not nice to be cheated out of qualification for the World Cup, and as a footballer you have to move on.

"There's only so much you can do as a player, you need referees to do their part and they didn't do their job on the day in Paris. We deal with it in different ways. We haven't talked about it too much, not much has been said about Paris, we are just looking to Estonia.

"The lads have just been saying how brilliant it would be to qualify. We have to prepare well and make sure we get there," added the Wicklow man, back in the Ireland squad after injury forced him to be a spectator for all of the previous games in Ireland's Euro campaign.

"We were very upset at the time of Paris and it does mentally scar you. It hurt a lot to be knocked out in that manner, but we are hungry to qualify for a major tournament and we have a great opportunity to do that."

Two years ago, it was France and their legion of stars from clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea and Arsenal who stood in Ireland's way and blocked our path. Over the next two games, it's the men who earn their crust at places like Viborg, Aalesunds, Sogndal and Khimki who oppose Ireland.

We don't know much about those Estonians, but McShane has already had a crash course in Estonian football from one of his team-mates at club level -- and the warning signs are already there for fans not to expect El Clasico.

"It's going to be tight," McShane reveals.

"I was talking to Robert Koren, from Hull, about Estonia, as he played for Slovenia against them in the qualifiers. He said they were very defensive, we're a defensive side as well so we could be looking at each other for 90 minutes.

"We had a few chats, me and Robert. He said Estonia were a strong side, very defensive, they catch you on the break. It might not be the best of games on Friday or Tuesday but, as long as we get there, I don't care.

"This is an honest bunch of lads and we won't get complacent. You can't take your eye off the ball, if you go into games over-confident, you will get punished.

"We have two cup finals ahead of us now, we don't want to be playing friendly games next summer when everyone else is going to the Euro finals. We want to be there and want to be competing, this group of players deserves that."

The Euro 2012 campaign has so far bypassed McShane and though there is an opening in defence due to John O'Shea's injury, it's almost certain that Stephen Kelly will get the nod to play at right-back, with McShane still battling his way back through a frustrating spell with Hull.

"I had a bad injury, the start of the season was really important for me, I was going to be playing in the first game of the season for the club, but I picked up this calf injury. It was only around the time of the last Ireland trip that I was really back training.

"Then the team went on an unbeaten run and the manager didn't change it. It was frustrating to watch from the bench and not be able to change anything on the pitch, but the team have been winning so I can't complain too much.

"I have felt that I need a loan move but I have only been back fit for a while, I can't really go knocking on the manager's door looking for a loan move when I haven't been back for that long.

"I have a chance of playing now. I have been mentally preparing myself for these games, to be ready if I am called upon. I have played before, I have enough caps to know that I can do okay if called on."