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'When something's taken away from you like that... emotions are so raw at that time'

John O’Shea recalls his memories of playing in international play-offs and what it would mean to play in another World Cup.

John O'Shea throws his jersey to the Irish fans after the game O'Shea throws his jersey to Irish fans after losing to France at the Stade de France in 2009. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

HAVING JUST MISSED the cut for Mick McCarthy’s squad in 2002, to finally play for Ireland at a World Cup would be the perfect crescendo on a glittering career for John O’Shea.

Many have stressed the desire this new generation of young hopefuls has to experience that feeling of representing your country at the highest level on the world stage.

O’Shea’s first impressions of the competition came during the era of Jack Charlton. Ahead of Ireland’s crucial World Cup play-off against Denmark tonight the Sunderland defender recalled the unique feeling of euphoria that surrounded that special period in Irish history.

“The earliest memory, for me that I remember properly would’ve been Italia 90,” he said speaking in the latest edition of #TheCallUp.

“It was kind of the first real memories of a major tournament, more so for the fact of the fun that was had on the streets — the carnage out of the roads and the street parties that were going on.”

O’Shea has a wealth of experience taking part in play-offs to reach major international tournaments and currently holds a record of two out of three, having beaten Estonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to reach successive European Championships in 2012 and 2016.

However it is that missing piece of the puzzle — Ireland’s defeat to France eight years ago — which brings back some painful memories the last time he took part in a World Cup play-off.

“The French play-off game was… I can always remember Trapattoni’s team talk beforehand,” O’Shea said.

“He spoke about what we were going to be up against that night in Paris. He said not just the French team but the French fans, match officials, the whole place. You name it, it was us against them.

John O'Shea with Thierry Henry John O'Shea tackles Thierry Henry during the first leg of Ireland's World Cup play-off against France. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“They managed to get it on the night as well. When something’s taken away from you like that… emotions are so raw at that time. The gravity of it, it’s kind of really settling in.

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“The big thing for me was just the pockets of green that we saw around the Stade de France that night. When we just stood in the corner with the fans… everything had been given.

“We’d laid everything out there for them and we’d appreciated the numbers that they traveled in again. They could see that emotion in us.”

The 36-year-old said that connection between the team and supporters will be crucial yet again.

Ireland take on the Danes in Copenhagen later tonight before welcoming them back to Dublin on Tuesday knowing 180 minutes could stand between a new generation of Irish players and fans, and a first ever taste at a World Cup finals.

“The players and the fans have always had that connection because they realise they support the team no matter what.

“Against Denmark, the inspiration that we’ll need we’ll be able to get that and draw upon that from the fans. That’s for sure.

“To get the call up to play in Russia would definitely be a dream scenario for me. To have a chance to go represent Ireland in a World Cup would be incredible.

“When I got the call up (for the first time) it was an amazing, amazing feeling because it’s something you’ve hoped for all your career. To finally get the chance to represent Ireland at senior level, that’s the stuff you’re dreaming of.”


  • As proud Energy Partner to the FAI, SSE Airtricity have given us a pair of tickets to the sold-out Republic of Ireland vs Denmark game to give away. You’ll watch the Boys in Green (hopefully) seal World Cup qualification from your premium level seats after enjoying food and refreshments in the Vavasour Suite before the match. To enter simply email competitions@the42.ie with your score prediction for the away leg and we’ll pick a winner from the correct entries on Sunday morning.

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