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Shay Given would
stay loyal to Aston
Villa should they be
relegated

Shay Given would stay loyal to Aston Villa should they be relegated

Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni. Photo: Getty Images

Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni. Photo: Getty Images

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Shay Given would stay loyal to Aston Villa should they be relegated

AS the business end of the Premier League season approaches, it is a nervous time for those involved in the relegation dogfight. Giovanni Trapattoni won't be happy that a number of important Irishmen are involved in the scrap.

The Italian wants a trouble-free run into this summer's European Championships and while avoiding injury is the obvious priority, it's also crucial that the 73-year-old's key players enter the summer break secure about their future.

It's possible that some influential characters could gather in Portmarnock next month with the distraction of their next move in the back of their mind -- not to mention the blow to morale that would accompany such a setback. Of course, the 'glass half-full' of that argument is that it would give them a motivation to show potential suitors they have what it takes to remain in the top flight, but it's not necessarily that simple when you factor in their contract situations.

Here are 10 Irishmen with international ambitions that are heading into a big month -- a list that includes seven likely travellers to Poland, and four members of Ireland's strongest starting XI.

Shay Given

Club: Aston Villa

Position: 15th

His Season: Glad to be back playing regular football after a frustrating time at Manchester City, but the Donegal native has been far busier than he might have anticipated. Sidelined with injury at the midpoint of the campaign, although he regained his place immediately. A few errors in recent weeks, but he's the least of Alex McLeish's worries.

What If They Go Down? Given was very thankful to Randy Lerner when he awarded him a five-year contract last summer and a weekly wage in the region of £60,000. That was a huge show of faith in a 35-year-old and the Donegal man would likely have to repay that loyalty in the Championship -- he won't get a better deal elsewhere.

Survival Prospects: Good

Richard Dunne

Club: Aston Villa

Position: 15th

His Season: Paul McGrath said last week that Dunne plays better for his country than his club and, certainly, his outstanding performances for Ireland in the autumn weren't quite replicated at Premier League level. Nevertheless, he is blameless for Villa's recent slump as it has effectively coincided with his absence.

What If They Go Down? On a similar wage to Given, but the difference is that next season is the final year on his contract. In the event that Villa were relegated, then it's likely that another club would size up the situation and offer a small transfer fee and a large contract.

Survival Prospects: Good

Kevin Doyle

Club: Wolves

Position: 20th

His Season: A nightmare, due to a combination of injury and poor form. Both Mick McCarthy and Terry Connor have preferred other players in key matches, including last weekend's key showdown with Bolton at Molineux. An unfathomable situation for a player who was attracting top-half interest last summer.

What If They Go Down? His stock may have been damaged, but a solid showing at the Euros would erase that from the memory. Either way, he has long-standing admirers that would be sure to take a punt anyway, with David Moyes a fan. If his former club Reading came back up, that would open up another possible destination.

Survival Prospects: Poor

Stephen Ward

Club: Wolves

Position: 20th

His Season: Probably the most effective of the Irish players at Wolves this term, and certainly the one to have enjoyed the longest run in the team. New seniority at Molineux reflected by the fact that he has worn the captain's armband, although the Wolves defence have suffered a number of difficult afternoons.

What If They Go Down? The percentage call for Ward would probably be to stay with the midlanders. He agreed a new three-and-a-half-year contract in November and the likelihood is that the club should be in a strong position to bounce back at the first attempt. He is only 26.

Survival Prospects: Poor

Stephen Hunt

Club: Wolves

Position: 20th

His Season: Halted by a variety of injury problems, making it a campaign to forget for the Waterford man. Has also been overlooked for key fixtures. Was vital to last year's run-in, but questionable if he will be afforded the same responsibility this time around.

What If They Go Down? Hunt is one of the highest-paid players at Wolves -- he put pen to paper on a £35,000-a-week contract after his move from Hull in the summer of 2010. Entering the final year of his contract, so Wolves could look to reduce the wage bill and accept a reduced fee.

Survival Prospects: Poor

James McCarthy

Club: Wigan

Position: 19th

His Season: Finally shown signs of his ability in the last month after a worrying run of performances. Roberto Martinez has mostly used the midfielder in a deep role, and a commanding display in the win over Liverpool demonstrated a welcome return to form.

What If They Go Down? Wigan would have to cash in on their main assets to cope with the financial hit of dropping down a level. Even though he may have underwhelmed this term, McCarthy is a player that bigger clubs will feel they can develop. He should be in the Premier League next year whatever happens.

Survival Prospects: Fair

Kevin Foley

Club: Wolves

Position: 20th

His Season: Foley was absent for most of the autumn with an ankle problem that also ruled him out of the conclusion of Ireland's Euro 2012 qualification campaign. His versatility should ensure his place in Poland, and it's the same reason he has racked up plenty of appearances this season at club level.

What If They Go Down? It might be time for a change for Foley, who has been at Wolves for five years. While he hasn't set the world alight in the Premier League, the Londoner is technically competent and would command interest. He did sign a long contract last summer, however.

Survival Prospects: Poor

Ciaran Clark

Club: Aston Villa

Position: 15th

His Season: Clark was out of favour in the early part of the season after the arrival of Alex McLeish and then came back into vogue before a knee injury put a spanner in the works. They've missed him, even though he's well down Giovanni Trapattoni's list.

What If They Go Down? It wouldn't be a huge issue for the 22-year-old. Indeed, it could present him with an opportunity to cement his status at the club if they embarked on a rebuilding project.

Survival Prospects: Good

Conor Sammon

Club: Wigan

Position: 19th

His Season: No goals to show for his Premier League efforts although, in his defence, Sammon has often been used as a lone frontman, a role which is more about creating space for others than actually getting into threatening positions. It's been a struggle, though.

What If They Go Down? Wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing for the Dubliner, who has the physicality to do well in the Championship and might be able to find his confidence in front of goal again.

Survival Prospects: Fair

Stephen Ireland

Club: Aston Villa

Position: 15th

His Season: Another year in the life. The odd decent performance, the occasional strop, an ill-advised shisha session, and the comfort of knowing that his girlfriend will keep him in the Irish headlines.

What If They Go Down? New York Red Bulls are interested. What would this mean for his prospects of an Irish return? Does anyone care? The Cobh man has suggested he is open to a call from the FAI although, considering he retired from the international game, he appears to be confused about who should be lifting the phone.

Survival Prospects: Good

Irish Independent