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'Plastic Paddies' need not apply

ALL OVER Britain there was the sound of paper-rustling over the weekend. Scores of English footballers, aware that Ireland have effectively qualified for the European Championship finals, are scouring their attics and searching the family tree to see if there's an Irish granny that can secure them a ticket to Euro 2012.

Chaps like Zat Knight, who really wrapped the green flag around him six years ago when he said: "It's going to be hard for me to make the England team now. I want to play in the 2006 World Cup finals and I may have to seriously consider making myself available for the Republic of Ireland." Gee thanks, Zat.

But Keith Andrews has a stern warning for anyone who thinks they can jump on the bandwagon -- don't bother.


"You could get people coming out of the woodwork, with a granny who came from somewhere in Ireland and that will be a tricky one, if they're not genuine. The group as a whole would stay strong on that and I don't think we'd accept that, to be honest, we'd certainly find it hard to deal with," Andrews says.

The Ireland squad is not a closed shop -- four years ago Andrews was nowhere near the senior team but he caught the eye with an excellent display in a 'B' international against Nottingham Forest and soon became a permanent fixture in the team.

So the Ipswich player says he has no objections to players who could now do the same and force their way onto the plane for the finals in June -- but only if they are true bloods.

"There are genuine cases out there who could come into the frame, lads like Wes Hoolahan -- who is a top-class player in my book and is having a great season," added Andrews.

"The lads who are here at the moment are by no means guaranteed their place in the final 23 for the finals.

"You will have injuries, maybe loss of form, and a couple of players in the squad could be under pressure by the time the finals come around and you may have other lads putting them under real pressure. And only 23 players can go, so someone could miss out. We have a core of about 27 in the last few squads but the manager can only pick 23 so it will be a tough call for the manager."

Some tough calls as players like James McCarthy, Seamus Coleman and Keith Treacy are by no means guaranteed a place in the final 23, but it's a safe bet that Andrews will make the cut. A man who literally shed blood for Ireland in Estonia on Friday, a consequence of a bloody nose.

"I think it's broken, the nose doesn't look the best. It never looked good but it's even worse now," Andrews joked about his nose injury which almost forced him out of the game.

"It was my own fault. The manager was having canaries because I was supposed to be on the edge of the box but I think I was a little bit giddy, having scored a goal earlier, and I knew that they were a man down so I thought I'd have a gamble, but their man came across me with his elbow.

"I was in a bit of daze and the nose wouldn't stop bleeding. At one stage I thought I might have to go off because the blood just didn't stop but I just stuck some stuff up my nose and cracked on."

There was a remarkably relaxed air to the Ireland camp yesterday. No hint at all that there was a competitive game only days away, the lightness of mood summed up by the sight of arch-joker Stephen Hunt shouting into the phone of his team-mate Simon Cox while Cox was speaking live to an English radio station. It's that winning feeling.

"It was easy to sleep the other night because it was so late by the time we got home to Dublin and got to bed. Normally it's hard to sleep after a game but Friday/Saturday wasn't like that," said Andrews.

"It was a bit surreal, to be honest. After winning 4-0 you'd expect it to be all singing and dancing but there was none of that. I don't think we had grasped what had happened, the fact that we'd won 4-0 away from home. It was a strange atmosphere, it was very quiet all the way home. We were all just talking and there was not massive celebrations.


"It has only sunk in over the weekend. From the moment I have been in this squad I have loved every minute of it. The team spirit we have is fantastic, the success we have had is built on that team spirit. There is a real sense of togetherness in the squad that's very special."

And yet we still have a game to play. "Tomorrow is about putting on a good show for the fans. Hopefully it will be a sell-out and we want to put on a performance for people, we want to win. We're on a good unbeaten run at the minute and we've kept a lot of clean sheets. We are very hard to beat and the manager certainly won't let us drop our standards. We wouldn't do that anyway," added Andrews.

"We want to sign off in style and finish up the campaign with a win, give the fans something to smile about."