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Dublin: 13 °C Thursday 19 September, 2019
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Given: 'It's going to be a big day of sport in the bars around the country'

Ireland’s senior football and rugby teams both play crucial games this Sunday, but the number one goalkeeper must first focus on the small matter of Germany’s visit to Dublin.

Given during today's session.
Given during today's session.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

SHAY GIVEN ADMITS having a go at trying to work out all the possible permutations in Ireland’s Euro 2016 Group D.

“I ripped up the page because it is so complicated!” the vastly-experienced Ireland goalkeeper told the media today. “What can happen and what can’t happen.

“I think it is just important that we focus on what we need to do. Thursday night is the first game and the one we have got to focus on and hopefully get a result.

“We will see what happens in Glasgow after the game but we can’t really lose sight on our own job and what we need to do.”

Along with Germany, Poland and Scotland, Ireland are one four of teams in the mix for qualification to next year’s finals in France heading into the last two games of the campaign.

The Boys in Green will be underdogs at home to the last year’s World Cup winners on Thursday. At the same time, however, Hampden Park hosts a game that is just as important to Ireland’s hopes.

If the Poles come away from Glasgow with a victory, it would guarantee a play-off place for Martin O’Neill’s side — regardless of their final two results.

“It’s a tough one to call as it could go either way,” responded Given.

“Last month, the Scottish played well against the Germans, scored two goals and we’re maybe unlucky not to get a late equaliser.

“We know the Scots are a good team but Poland have Lewandowski and Co. He’s really on song at the minute so it will be a tough game for them.

We’re all professionals and we’re all focused on what we need to do. Hopefully after Thursday night the picture will be clearer and the permutations will be less complicated.”

The last time the Germans were in town, back in October 2012, Marco Reus and Toni Kroos scored two each as Giovanni Trapattoni’s side were hammered 6-1 at the Aviva Stadium. 

Given wasn’t involved that night, having recently retired from international football. He has since returned to the international fold and has won back the number one jersey despite the fact that he is second choice to Jack Butland at Stoke City.

And, despite earning 131 senior caps, the 39-year-old’s appetite to don the green jersey hasn’t waned.

“It’s exciting to be involved in,” he said. “It’s only Monday now but in the back of your mind and even when you’re trying to sleep at night all you are thinking of is the Germany game. I’ve been like that for the last few weeks leading up to it.

“They’re the world champions and it is a great opportunity for us as a team and a nation to put ourselves up against the best team in the world. It’s not going to be easy but we’re relishing it.”

Soccer - Capital One Cup - Third Round - Fulham v Stoke City - Craven Cottage Given is second choice at Stoke. Source: Anthony Devlin

Given got a rare run-out for the Potters in their recent Capital One Cup win over Fulham but explains that he has been doing additional work in order to keep himself sharp.

“I’m nice and fresh. I’ve not played too many games, but I played last week in the League Cup and kept a clean sheet down at Craven Cottage.

Personally, I’ve been working really hard behind the scenes in the gym and on the training pitch at Stoke. Things have been going really well.”

With Ireland meeting France in the Rugby World Cup Pool D decider hours before Sunday’s evenings final group game away to Poland, Given hopes it is a day to remember for Irish sports fans.

“It’s great to see the rugby team doing so well in the World Cup,” he added. “It would be great if they won it.

“They’ve got France coming up and it’s going to be a big day of sport in the bars and clubs around the country on Sunday.”

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Ben Blake

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