Goalkeeper Shay Given’s retirement from international football was labelled a “bit of a shock” yesterday by the man who helped propel his career to the heights it reached, writes Paddy Walsh.
Robbie White, current chairman of Lifford Celtic F.C. and manager when the raw local youngster took over between the posts for the team in the early nineties, spoke of his surprise at the decision but went on to highlight Given’s “fantastic career” at the top level both with Ireland and the clubs he has represented.
“He was a pleasure to work with in those early days and he hasn’t changed a bit. Shay was always totally dedicated and that’s how he got where he is today. It was a bit of a shock alright to hear that he has retired from the international game but he has given magnificent service to Ireland over the years,” Robbie told the ‘Democrat’.
The Lifford born ‘keeper, who made his international debut against Russia in 1996 and went on to win 125 caps, turned out as a fifteen year old for Lifford Celtic in the F.A.I. Junior Cup semi-final tie at Oriel Park, Dundalk in the early nineties. “We lost 1-0 to Neilstown Rangers but it was after that that Glasgow Celtic came knocking on the door.”
The teenager, who succeeded another Donegal goalkeeping hero in goals for Ireland, Packie Bonner, was a youth keeper with the Glasgow giants up to 1994. While on loan from Blackburn Rovers, he helped Sunderland to the English First Division title in the season 1995/96 and subsequently signed for Newcastle United in 1997. He joined Manchester City in 2009 but left for Aston Villa two seasons later.
He played in all three games for the Republic in this summer’s European Championships, winning the last of his caps against Italy.
“He came into the tournament on the back of an injury but Shay has been totally committed to the Irish team. He loved playing for Ireland and that’s why he has 125 caps. He has always had a great attitude and that along with his ability made him the legend he is,” said Robbie.
Local Senator, Jimmy Harte, added to the tributes yesterday, stating that he was “saddened” to hear he was hanging up his international gloves. “He will be missed but he is a role model to many young kids who see that nice guys do come first when they see Shay Given and his career.
“I was in Lansdowne Road when he made his debut in 1996 and again in Poznan in June which turned out to be his last game for Ireland. He has been a magnificent professional and an outstanding ambassador for both Donegal and his country,” Senator Harte acknowledged.