Given glad to be playing again
Even conceding a late winner could not dampen Shay Given's joy at getting back on to a football pitch again.
The Manchester City keeper has been a frustrated bystander for most of the domestic season to date, but was handed some respite last night when he won a record 109th cap for the Republic of Ireland.
Given was not allowed to celebrate with a clean sheet as visitors Norway ran out 2-1 winners at the Aviva Stadium, but despite his obvious disappointment at the result, the 34-year-old was delighted just to have got some football under his belt.
He said: "To be honest, as I said before the game, it was just nice to be playing again. It was nice building up to the game, the mental side of things.
"Just to be out there and preparing for a game going through the emotions of that, and having the atmosphere with the crowd there, it was great.
"I was just delighted to be out there playing. It's been an up and down kind of season for me, not playing too many games, and it was just nice to be playing some football."
It was all going swimmingly for Given and his team-mates as Giovanni Trapattoni's much-changed side took the game to the Norwegians, who have worked their way into 13th place in FIFA's world rankings since the sides last met in Oslo in August 2008.
Reading striker Shane Long, partnering Kevin Doyle in attack in the absence of the injured Robbie Keane, staked his own claim for a regular starting berth with a fine personal display.
It was he who fired the Republic ahead with just five minutes gone when after he had been hauled down by Fulham defender Brede Hangeland, he converted the resulting penalty.
Ireland dominated the early stages of the game, but could not extend their advantage and they were made to pay 11 minutes before the break when Morten Gamst Pedersen curled home a fine free-kick which gave Given little chance.
Trapattoni's men largely held sway after the break too, but were caught by a sweeping counter-attack four minutes from time which saw striker Erik Huseklepp turn home Pedersen's cross at the far post.
The result came as a disappointment, but Long's performance and those of 19-year-old left-back Greg Cunningham and Keith Fahey in central midfield in particular were sources of consolation.
Given said: "The most important thing is the result, but there were a lot of positives to take from the game. We had a lot of really good performances.
"It was one of those games when you come off and you wonder how you lost the game because we had a lot of possession and probably the best chances and we came away with a defeat, so that's disappointing."
Trapattoni was impressed enough with Long's contribution to venture the opinion that Ireland now have genuine competition to Keane and Doyle, his first-choice partnership, although the Reading man modestly played down his chances of muscling his way into the team.
Long said: "I don't know, there are a few names for that position as well - Jon Walters came on last night and did very well, and there's Andy Keogh, Daryl Murphy - there are a lot of people going for that position.
"I know every chance I get I have got to try to take and make the most of it, and I would like to think I did that last night."
Cunningham too did his chances of proving he is the long-term successor to Kevin Kilbane no harm with a largely assured display, although he admits he still has much to learn.
The Manchester City defender, who is currently on loan at Leicester, said: "I was happy enough, but I dived in for the second goal when they broke away on the counter-attack, which was disappointing.
"I will look at the DVD and see some bits I won't be happy with, but I will try to cut those out.
"I am trying to do as well as I can and trying to put thoughts into the manager's head.
"But I have just got to keep progressing now at Leicester, keep playing my football and improving as a player, and hopefully that will come."
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