THE CHANCE to play one last time at the Aviva Stadium was tempting for Shay Given, but the Liffordman was content to have already gone into the sunset.
Given announced last month that he was calling time on his international career in the wake of Euro 2016.
After 134 caps, spanning 20 years, the 40-year-old brought the curtain down.
Four years ago, he did likewise after a disappointing Euro 2012 campaign, but was brought back by Martin O’Neill.
On Wednesday night, Ireland bid a final farewell to Robbie Keane, the country’s record scorer and record appearance holder.
Picture caption: Shay Given with Donegal Sport Hub’s Chris McNulty. Picture by Geraldine Diver.
There was one final cartwheel from the Dubliner after Keane’s 68th goal in a 4-0 win over Oman.
Given looked on, but had no regrets that he didn’t get the chance to have a swansong.
O’Neill planted the seed, but Given had already his mind made up, his goodbyes said and his memories banked.
“I’m 40 years of age and I have to focus on my club career,” Given says.[adrotate group=”81″]
“I’ve traveled enough around the place. Not playing in the summer made the decision a wee bit easier.
“I have some great memories. I loved every minute of it. I had such a long time involved. It was similar to Packie (Bonner) in a way, coming from Donegal thinking you had no chance to playing so many games for Ireland. It was amazing.”
He played at the World Cup in 2002 and at Euro 2012, while he watched on from the bench this year as a new era dawned for the Boys in Green in France.[adrotate group=”38″]
It is ten years now since Given was overlooked for the Irish captaincy with Steve Staunton opting instead to give the armband to Keane.
Ireland begin their 2018 World Cup qualifiers this evening in Belgrade and, if passed fit, Seamus Coleman seems set to be named captain by O’Neill.
Given has watched Coleman’s progress closely and believes the Killybegs man could be captain, like Keane was before him, for the next decade.[adrotate group=”37″]
Given says: “If Seamus gets the armband he could have it for ten years. It would be unreal to see a Donegal man be the captain.
“I’ve worn the armband when Robbie was missing, but to get it on a permanent basis for Seamus would be amazing.”
On Friday, Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane likened Coleman to Irish legend Denis Irwin.
“Obviously, it’s been documented that he enjoyed the captaincy in the Euros,” Keane said.
“I think he leads. Would I compare him to Denis Irwin? I don’t mean in the football sense, but the way Denis played. Denis led by being a brilliant player and Seamus Coleman is the same type of player.[adrotate group=”46″]
“He leads by the way he plays, and that’s by being a brilliant player and a good lad. He doesn’t look like he gets too high one way and too low the other. He’s just a real Steady Eddie – and I mean that in the nicest possible way – just like Denis was.
“And just the fact that I’m talking about him in the same breath as Denis Irwin tells you what I think of Seamus. I don’t do that with many players, not in terms of comparing them to Denis.”
Coleman is often seen as the quiet man at Everton and within the Irish set-up, but Given’s very expression as he discusses his fellow Donegal man says it all.
The eyes widen when he’s asked about Coleman’s speech before the crunch Euro 2016 clash with Italy in Lille. Coleman was captain for the games against Italy and France, and was said to have delivered a rousing address pre-match in the Stade Pierre Mauroy.[adrotate group=”53″]
Given says: “I wasn’t in the circle, but the lads were amazed with what he was coming out with – in a good way and in a positive way.
“The lads said it was hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck job. He comes across as a quiet lad, but he’s gone onto the next level.
“He’s been around the squad for a few years now and he’s definitely a leader in the dressing room.”
Given and Robbie Keane were team-mates since the young Tallaght terrier was sprung onto the scene by McCarthy. Despite 68 goals in 146 games, Keane wasn’t quite a darling of the Green Army.
It is a point that sticks in the teeth with Given.[adrotate group=”82″]
“Robbie scored so many important goals over the years and he’s had a great career for Ireland,” Given says.
“I suppose Robbie was under-appreciated. His record speaks for itself really.
“Maybe it’s only in ten years that he’ll be really appreciated. He’s up there with the greats of world football and sometimes it’s only when something’s gone that you appreciate it. Robbie is a great player and was a great captain for Ireland. He always had the lads’ best interests at heart.”
Football now is a world far removed from that which Given entered in 1991 when, after being picked up from Lifford Celtic, he went to Glasgow to Celtic FC.
Now with Stoke City, after spells with Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United, Manchester City and Aston Villa – as well as loan stints at Swindon, Sunderland and Middlebrough – Given still gets a kick from playing in the Premier League.[adrotate group=”38″]
“We had people from the Premier League into us in pre-season telling us how we were the most watched League in the world,” he says.
“Billions, not even millions, are watching us every week. It’s a huge League. You walk onto that pitch and it’s unreal to think how many people are watching.”
Mark Hughes was the man who signed Given for Manchester City and he snapped up the veteran stopper at Stoke, too. Given is currently Hughes’ goalkeeper with Jack Butland looking likely to miss around two months because of injury.
Given has played in all four of Stoke’s games this season, but they’ve yet to taste a League win.
“It’s great to be back playing in the Premier League,” Given says.
“It’s disappointing for Jack, but it’s good news for me. It means that I should get an extended run in the team and I’m delighted.[adrotate group=”74″]
“It’s a great club to be at. I love it and love the manager.
“We have to improve. We have Tottenham at home next which will be another tough one. We have finished ninth in the last two seasons so we’ll have to improve on that.
“We signed a couple of players on deadline day (Wilfried Bony and Bruno Martins Indi) who’ll take the squad on a wee bit more too. They’ll be a big help.”
Given will be 41 by the time the current season ends. His contract at the Britannia Stadium runs out at the conclusion of the season, but he has no intention of hanging up his gloves for some time yet.
He says: “Hopefully I can go on for another season or two yet.
“If I get an extended run in the team now I want to show everyone at the club and around the League that I’m still capable of playing at the top level. I’d love to extend my time at Stoke.
“The body de-hardens itself to playing every week so I’ve had to toughen it up again. I played three games in the one week there with the cup game thrown in. The body is getting used to playing regularly again. The body gets sore, but I’ve missed that feeling.”Tags: