Sport Soccer

Monday 23 April 2018

Given targeting April return

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

SHAY GIVEN is targeting an April return to action and hopes to be fit in time for Ireland's summer internationals and the crunch return clash with Macedonia.

There were fears the 'keeper's shoulder injury would keep him out for the rest of the season, but after meeting with his specialist last Wednesday the Lifford man received positive news and is now aiming to come back before the end of Manchester City's season.

Getting into the side at Eastlands may prove to be the difficult part, with Joe Hart holding the No 1 jersey all season. But with Carling Nations Cup clashes against Northern Ireland and Scotland to come in May before the vital return fixture against Macedonia in June, he will hope to reclaim his international spot.

"The recovery's going well," he said. "I met the specialist in London and he's happy. I'm hoping to be back playing by the end of April.

"We have some Ireland games too in May and the big one in June. It's been extremely frustrating, I haven't played enough this season. And to top it off, I got injured when I wasn't even playing. But I'll get the head down and try to be positive

"Anything can happen in football, Joe might get injured or suspended and I have to be ready to step in. You can train until the cows come home, but if you're not getting the game time, you're not match sharp."

While the jersey he has made his own for more than a decade will be worn by someone else this weekend, Given has full faith in his understudy's ability. And he believes Keiren Westwood can play at a higher level if he keeps up his form.

"For sure, the country is in safe hands," he told RTE Radio. "I've been very impressed with Keiren since he came into the squad. I think his contract is up in the summer and, no disrespect to Coventry, but he can make a move to a bigger club.

"It's a great game for him on Saturday, the nation is behind him and we need three points to qualify.

"It's been too long since we were at a major finals. The nation needs a pick-up and the best way of doing that is by qualifying.

"We have a realistic chance but it will be tough. Worst-case scenario we make the play-off and get a favourable draw."

Irish Independent

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