Wednesday 24 January 2018

Butland blow opens door for Given at Stoke

Republic of Ireland's Shay Given. Photo: David Maher / Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland's Shay Given. Photo: David Maher / Sportsfile newsdesk

A window of opportunity has opened for Shay Given after Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland damaged an ankle in England's dramatic defeat of Germany.

Butland faces the heartache of missing the Euros after the initial diagnosis of his injury suggests he will spend up to three months on the sidelines.

That should open the door for a first team return for Given. The veteran joined Stoke last summer knowing he would be Butland's back-up, with cup competitions offering him the best chance of action. But the knee problem he sustained on Irish duty in October has prevented him from fulfilling that role and has placed his Euro 2016 hopes in jeopardy.

Danish netminder Jakob Haugaard has acted as Butland's understudy, yet Given would expect to be thrust into the fray by Mark Hughes if he proves his fitness.

He recently travelled to Qatar for extra rehab and to speak to a specialist about what has turned into a frustrating and complicated stint on the sidelines.

Given, who turns 40 next month, would seriously come back into the Euros frame with a run of matches at club level. Rob Elliot has moved up the list because he is now involved every week with Newcastle.

Meanwhile, Eunan O'Kane was delighted to fulfil a long-term ambition on Friday by winning his first senior international cap.

The Bournemouth midfielder from Derry - who switched allegiance from Northern Ireland at U-21 level - was called into the Ireland squad by Martin O'Neill last autumn without getting on the pitch.

He was given his opportunity after an hour against Switzerland - and nearly marked the occasion with a late goal.

"It's been something I've worked towards for a long time," said O'Kane. "To finally get out there and get that milestone in my career. I couldn't have been prouder. I'd have liked to finish off with a goal though."

O'Neill did not tell the 25-year-old in advance that he would be getting across the white line, and the debutant has no complaints about that policy.

"He keeps his cards quite close to his chest and that's the way it works but, in all honesty, it's maybe a good thing," he said. "When I was told I was coming on, there was excitement - just to be ready and ensure the first things I did were good and get off to a good start."

"It's tremendous to get that first appearance under my belt."

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