McCarthy in race to prove fitness for Samba clash
SHAY GIVEN may have been a member of the supporting cast in the big story of the Premier League weekend but, after linking up with the Irish squad yesterday, he was in no mood to make a song and dance about it.
Instead, the only tunes the Man City 'keeper is looking forward to are the ditties produced by Ireland new caps Marc Wilson, Greg Cunningham and James McCarthy when they go through an induction process in front of their peers this evening -- although skipper Robbie Keane won't be there, with his Old Firm pain compounded by a knee injury which puts him out of tomorrow night's Brazil friendly. Anthony Stokes has been summoned in his place.
McCarthy's presence is not yet certain either, with the Wigan man hoping to prove to doctors today that he can be fit after a recurring ankle problem was exacerbated by what he described as a "reckless" challenge from Birmingham's Liam Ridgewell that ended his St Andrews' afternoon.
On another Saturday, that tackle would have been a major discussion point. Alas, the trauma suffered by Aaron Ramsey couldn't even command the headlines here, with the handshake or lack thereof between Wayne Bridge and John Terry refusing to go away.
Given divulged that he was aware beforehand that Bridge would refuse the gesture. Otherwise, while revealing his delight at a rare win over Chelsea, he stressed that the overall angst was none of his business.
The Donegal native is glad to be re-united with his international colleagues for the first time since Paris, where they parted abruptly with bitterness raw. Recent Champions League errors by Swedish ref Martin Hansson -- "He should take up something else maybe," Given quipped -- serve as a reminder of the pain caused by Thierry Henry's unseen handball. Yet Given sticks by the mantra of looking to the future, confirming that he will stay in the Irish picture until the end of the 2012 campaign and possibly beyond.
"I think the way we played against France has given a lot more belief to the players," said the 102-times capped stopper. "I'm obviously very proud to play for my country, I always have been, and I'll be there if needed. Although I suppose a lot depends on Manchester City and things. I know it will come to an end sometime."
McCarthy, though, is at the start of an adventure born from Scottish reluctance to blood him at U-16 level. Their suspicion about his ability spectacularly back-fired, as the FAI swooped to secure a talented prospect who was never going to change his mind thereafter, with the teenager and his family frustrated by stories in the Scottish media that suggested a rethink was possible. Craig Levein and Gary Caldwell soon learned they were wasting their time after another flurry of nonsensical speculation last month.
Now, the versatile midfielder is hoping that his ankle difficulties clear up, after stretching and walking rather than taking a full part in his training session under the guidance of Giovanni Trapattoni at Arsenal's St Albans base.
"I got a couple of phone calls from Ireland, from Liam Brady," said McCarthy, with relation to the most recent waste of ink. "But it was just paper talk. I told them from day one that nothing was happening. Ireland have done so well in everything they've done for me, so I'm just glad to be a part of it."