Shay Given has been passed fit to play in the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2012 opener against Croatia on Sunday night.
It was rumoured yesterday morning that the Aston Villa goalkeeper would miss the Group C game in Poznan. A fresh calf strain forced the country’s record cap holder to sit out Ireland’s first training session in front of more than 13,000 locals in the Arka Gdynia Stadium near their Polish base on Tuesday afternoon.
“I don’t think wild horses could keep Shay out of the game on Sunday,” goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly said yesterday afternoon. “Once you get a little niggle with a knee, you get compensatory issues. But anyone who saw the game he played the other night wouldn’t question his fitness, form or how sharp he is.
“He’s busting to get back to training. I think the determination and resilience that he has show over 16 years of playing for Ireland are not going to go away overnight.”
The Lifford native played 45 minutes in Monday night’s 0-0 friendly international draw against Hungary in Budapest before being replaced by Kieren Westwood at half-time. A number of players, including Aiden McGeady, had complained of tiredness after the Hungary game and the squad was excused from training this morning.
Given, who at 36 is the eldest player taking part at Euro 2012, has also struggled with a knee injury and blisters during pre-tournament training, missing the final Dublin friendly, a 1-0 win against Bosnia and Herzegovina when substitute Shane Long scored the only goal. However, the return to fitness of the former Manchester City number one is a major boost for manager Giovanni Trapattoni ahead of the tournament.
Kelly’s feelings were echoed by Trapattoni, who said: “Thank God, it is only a rest. It was decided before the game that Shay would play one half. The second half it was going to be the other ‘keeper. He is fit. There is no injury.”
Given now has 122 international caps, having made his debut against Russia in 1996 at Lansdowne Road in Mick McCarthy’s first game in charge as manager. The current record caps holder for the British Isles is Peter Shilton, who earned his 125th and last England cap in the third and fourth place play-off against Italy in the 1990 World Cup in Bari.
If Given plays in Ireland’s first two games next week, against Croatia on Sunday and then Spain in Gdansk four days’ later, he will equal Shilton’s record against Italy back in Poznan on Monday, June 18.
Euro 2012 will be Given’s second international tournament, having kept goal at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea, where Ireland went down on penalties to Spain in Suwon in the last 16.
Ireland’s participation in the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine is only their second ever in the competition.
Another Donegal man, Packie Bonner, was in goal back in Euro 88 in West Germany when Ireland beat England 1-0 in Stuttgart, drew 1-1 with the Soviet Union in Hannover before going down by a single goal to eventual winners the Netherlands in Gelsenkirchen.