John O’Shea

John O’Shea feared his Ire­land ca­reer could have ended in Wales but he wants Rus­sia swan­song

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - FRONT PAGE - COLIN YOUNG

“We know they are all good teams in the play-offs, but we have a good squad as well and we will be look­ing for­ward to it. No teams will want to play us and it is great to be in the mix.”

VIC­TORY over Wales in Cardiff, sec­ond place, Ire­land’s name in the draw for Tues­day’s play-off. Of course there had been to­tal be­lief among Martin O’Neill and his play­ers that they would pre­vail. But John O’Shea, the veteran of the Ir­ish squad, has ad­mit­ted that he did con­tem­plate in­ter­na­tional re­tire­ment in the build-up to Mon­day’s show­down.

The Sun­der­land cap­tain, on the bench for most of this World Cup cam­paign, can now bag or drag at least an­other month out of re­turn­ing home to rep­re­sent his coun­try. The farewell to Ire­land is on hold. Never in doubt.

O’Shea knows he may not add to his 116 caps if the road to Rus­sia ends next month but he rel­ishes his role in the squad, and is des­per­ate to go to the World Cup.

“If the re­sults didn’t go our way, I knew I would have to think about it but thank­fully it didn’t come to that,” he says. “We got over the line thanks to that great goal from James (McClean), and you can keep be­liev­ing and hav­ing that hope.

“Ul­ti­mately I want to keep play­ing. Ob­vi­ously the club foot­ball, the bread and but­ter, is the most im­por­tant thing. I want to play for Sun­der­land. In­ter­na­tional foot­ball has al­ways been the ic­ing on the cake for me, but hope­fully it will con­tinue for a lit­tle bit longer.

“At one stage we were think­ing we could win the group, then sud­denly, would we strug­gle to qual­ify for the play-offs? Then it came down to the Wales game and there was still a chance to qual­ify au­to­mat­i­cally, as we knew Ge­or­gia would give Ser­bia a good game.

“We had to fo­cus on beat­ing Wales. It was a clas­sic win, in that the first goal was al­ways go­ing to be im­por­tant. We soaked it up, as we have shown we can so many times over the years away from home. Ever since I have been in­volved with Ire­land, what­ever group we have or per­son­al­i­ties in the team, we have al­ways given it our all, and you just hope it goes for you, as it did the other night, when the boys were su­perb.

“That is just the first hur­dle. We know they are all good teams in the play-offs, but we have a good squad as well. No teams will want to play us and it is great to be in the mix. Fin­gers crossed, the ref­eree and as­sis­tant ref­er­ees will be spot on.”

Speak­ing at the Sun­der­land train­ing ground on Fri­day morn­ing, O’Shea was still pos­i­tively beam­ing. And who can blame him. Not many Sun­der­land play­ers have had that win­ning feel­ing any morn­ing over the last cou­ple of years. Just ask Jonny Wil­liams, the Welsh mid­fielder who came on for the in­jured Joe Allen, who has yet to win a game since join­ing on loan from Crys­tal Palace.

As soon as Si­mon Grayson be­came Sun­der­land man­ager in June, O’Shea signed a new two-year deal. Ai­den McGeady and Marc Wil­son have also joined Dar­ron Gib­son at this trou­bled club in Eng­land’s north-east. In dan­ger of slip­ping from the Cham­pi­onship, Grayson has been un­able to halt the slide, his hands tied by mind-bog­gling fi­nan­cial re­stric­tions. He has one of the high­est-paid squads in the league but can­not sign a striker.

O’Shea made his first start of the sea­son a fort­night ago at Pre­ston, keep­ing Sean Maguire un­der wraps, and he played the full 90 min­utes in yes­ter­day’s draw with QPR, which wasn’t enough to get Sun­der­land out of the bot­tom three.

He knows the clock is tick­ing. But he knew that four years ago when his Ir­ish team-mates mocked him and Glenn Whe­lan. It was June, the last games of the sea­son. The rest of the lads were head­ing for the sun. O’Shea and Whe­lan were signed up for an FAI coach­ing course. They have both re­cently re­ceived their UEFA A li­cences.

“They were laugh­ing at us be­cause we were com­ing back to Dublin for a week to 10 days and they were go­ing off on their hol­i­days,” he says. “I am sure a few of those boys are think­ing they should have done it now. It was some­thing I wanted to have done and be ready for while I was still play­ing, whether I do or don’t go into it.

“It’s great. The FAI re­alised when Shay (Given) and Killa (Kevin Kil­bane)

went up to North­ern Ire­land to do their cour­ses that some­thing had to be done and we got on board with that. We started three or four years ago do­ing blocks ev­ery sum­mer.

“It’s a work in progress, wait and see. Ini­tially, in my head, I see man­age­ment but it sounds very easy and I don’t think it is. It is a ques­tion of get­ting a job in the first place, and when you see the turn­around of man­agers and coaches it is a men­tal one to get your head around. It is good to be pre­pared for it, if I do fancy it. When we got them, Wheelo was laugh­ing, say­ing he was go­ing to throw his name in for a few jobs now, but we might wait.”

It should come as no surprise that O’Shea is pre­pared for the fu­ture. This is the boy who de­layed his ca­reer at

Manch­ester United to fin­ish his Leav­ing Cer­tifi­cate in Water­ford. His dad, Jim, who sadly passed away in April, was a great foot­ball man but his wife Mary in­sisted John fin­ish his stud­ies.

O’Shea ex­plains: “I was fairly re­laxed about it be­cause Kevin Mo­ran said ‘if there are a few teams look­ing at him now, there will still be a few teams look­ing at him when he’s fin­ished’. So we took that ad­vice. We (Ire­land) won the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship in Scot­land in ’98 and I was prac­ti­cally go­ing to Celtic when Manch­ester United came in at the last minute and we/I changed my mind. My dad would have had me there the next day but my mam in­sisted, thank­fully . . . well I say thank­fully, it worked out OK.

“Liver­pool wanted me to come over

ev­ery week­end and we said we couldn’t do that and they said ‘bye, bye’ which was a tough one. I went to QPR, had a week’s trial and they of­fered a four-year deal, which was tough to turn down.

“It worked out OK. United were fine, be­cause that was the agree­ment. It was never a prob­lem, so ev­ery­one was happy. But it was weird. It was a strange year. There was a lot of foot­ball in­volved and I did OK with the stud­ies, passed every­thing with a few hon­ours.

“I did start an Open Uni­ver­sity de­gree, in so­cial sci­ence . . . some­thing like that, it’s so long ago I can’t re­mem­ber. Then I went out on loan to Bournemouth and then Royal An­twerp and I knew I had to park it.”

O’Shea made 393 ap­pear­ances for United, win­ning five Pre­mier League ti­tles, the Cham­pi­ons League and an FA Cup. He has made 218 ap­pear­ances for Sun­der­land and 116 for Ire­land (and count­ing). The story has a lit­tle way to run yet.

This is the boy who de­layed his ca­reer at Man United to fin­ish his stud­ies

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