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Dublin: 6°C Thursday 25 February 2021

'Where's the new Keane, Duffer or Dunney?' - Given fears for lack of young players coming through

The ex-Ireland goalkeeper would also like to see the current management team stay on beyond this campaign.

Given at eir Sport's launch yesterday.
Given at eir Sport's launch yesterday.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

IRELAND’S LACK OF young talent is a major worry, according to Shay Given.

In the wake of Tuesday’s 1-0 defeat to Serbia, the 134-times capped former goalkeeper believes it is unfair to expect the likes of 35-year-old Wes Hoolahan to carry the team going forward.

Callum O’Dowda and Cyrus Christie were the only two players in the most recent squad under the age of 25 and manager Martin O’Neill doesn’t feel the next generation are ready for senior international football.

“The bigger concern would be the players coming through,” said Given. Where is the likes of the new Robbie [Keane], [Damien] Duffer or [Richard] Dunney?

“There’s been a lot of media stuff around Wes and whether he should or shouldn’t play. He’s a quality player, don’t get me wrong, but he’s 35 years of age. You’re pinning all your hopes on someone who is coming to the latter part of his career.”

After picking up just one point from this week’s double-header, Ireland sit outside the qualification places and they must defeat both Moldova and Wales next month to have any hope of securing a place at the 2018 World Cup.

“You’d like to think we can beat Moldova at home and then we’re into a cup final sort of scenario in Cardiff,” added Given.

It would be the real kick in the teeth if we finished second and we were the ninth-placed runner-up. If we win the last two games we’ve got a realistic chance.”

A report in The Times this morning claims the FAI are prepared to offer O’Neill and his backroom staff a new two-year contract regardless of whether the Boys in Green progress to next year’s finals in Russia and Given feels that would be the right move.

“I think he probably should [stay on],” he said. “They were unbeaten in qualifying until this week. I know he got a lot of stick after the Georgia game. I think it was unfair in a sense as the players themselves admitted they were below par. You get off days in football and that was one of them.

“The Serbia performance was far better. You would have to ask Martin what he wants to do but I’m sure the FAI will want to keep him and Roy for the next campaign.”

If O’Neill was to leave after this two-year cycle, would assistant Roy Keane be a good option to replace him?

“That would be the natural progression — be it this time if Martin stepped away or in the future. He would probably see himself as manager one day.

“I think he’s quite keen and it’s no secret that he wants to get back into management, whether that’s with Ireland, a club in England or another country. He’s not made any secret of that and I’m sure that he will be back in management one day.”

Michael O'Neill Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill. Source: William Cherry/INPHO

Republic of Ireland fans can only look on in envy as Northern Ireland strengthened their claim for the runners-up spot in Group C with victory over the Czech Republic this week.

Former Shamrock Rovers boss Michael O’Neill has done worked wonders with a limited resources and he looks set to lead them to a second major tournament after their last-16 appearance at Euro 2016.

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“They’ve probably got a similar pool of players to ourselves and Michael O’Neill has done a fantastic job there,” says Given. “They beat the Czech Republic 2-0 the other night and it went unnoticed like that was a normal result.

A few years back, that would have been one of the best results in the history of Northern Ireland but that shows how far they have come on.

“It’s about playing to your strengths and they know the system well. They’ve been very successful.”

At 41, Given is currently unattached but the Donegal stopper is not quite ready to call time on his career just yet and he has been training with Macclesfield Town to stay fit.

“I’ve enjoyed the everyday interaction with the lads and I’m going to miss that when I do finish. I’ve been doing a bit of media and I’ve been at Macclesfield a couple of days a week as well.”

Former team-mate Robbie Keane has recently agreed to join Indian Super League outfit Atletico de Kolkata, but it doesn’t interest Given.

“Robbie spoke to me, I think it was to come and clean his boots!” he joked. “With my family situation at the minute, I’ve got four kids but two very young ones so maybe that wouldn’t be for me at the minute.

“Good luck to Robbie and he’s had an amazing career. He feels like it’s an opportunity where he wants to play and score goals and that’s what he’s all about. I think he misses playing football everyday.”

Like fellow ex-Ireland internationals Kevin Kilbane, Keith Andrews, Damien Duff and Richard Dunne, Given has been trying his hand at some media work of late and it’s an avenue he’s open to pursuing further.

I’ve been getting a bit of stick off the lads, who have said I’m on every channel they turn on. My Twitter feed has been on fire with people saying ‘Can you get off my TV set?’.

“I’ve actually enjoyed it. Maybe it’s got something to do with having a four month old baby and being able to get out of the house for a rest!

“I’m getting to watch football and talk about it. That’s all I’ve known all my life so I find it quite easy to talk about different players and systems. It’s something I hope to improve on.”

- Originally published at 1.00pm 

Pictured is former Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given, who was appearing to promote the BT Sport line-up on the eir Sport Pack, at eir Group HQ. eir Sport yesterday announced an exciting line up of live content for the new season on the eir Sport Pack. The Uefa Champions League, the Uefa Europa League, the Premier League, rugby’s European Champions Cup, the AIB Club Championships and the Allianz Leagues will all form part of a bumper season ahead

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