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in at deep end ‘It’s sink or swim, you have to take your opportunity’ – Dara O’Shea


Dara O'Shea during a Republic of Ireland training session at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Dara O'Shea during a Republic of Ireland training session at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Dara O'Shea during a Republic of Ireland training session at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Before he went on to captain the national side, en route to winning 72 caps, Kenny Cunningham once said that it took him until his 15th cap before he felt at home in international football.

Dara O’Shea is cut from the same cloth as Cunningham – a Dubliner who was all-round athlete who was probably good enough to play at senior level for the Dubs if he’d ignored soccer’s call and stuck to Gaelic football but the West Brom player is finding out that he has to grow up very quickly on the international stage, no time for a bedding in process when he’s been thrown in at the deep end.

Wednesday’s game in Serbia was only the fifth senior cap for O’Shea and he’s almost certain to play against Luxembourg tonight, where a clean sheet will be seen as essential, not a bonus and where defeat would fatal to Ireland’s hopes.

Senior football has been a stern test, with just one clean sheet (a dull 0-0 draw with Bulgaria) in his five caps to date, and O’Shea is finding out that the breathing space, the learning curve, which Cunningham needed is not available now. Needs must, Ireland needs O’Shea and Ireland need a win.

“It’s great to get the opportunity to play these games, games for your country where there’s something on the line, something at stake. It’s sink or swim, you have to take your opportunity, football is all about taking opportunities and not looking too far ahead,” says O’Shea.

“It has happened very quickly, obviously for me to play it’s a great feeling. But I don’t just want to play, I want to win. I want to dominate. I need to take everything I can and utilise this experience going forward.

“We have some great players here, some players who have so many caps for their country, who have captained their country. I want to do that instead, so I’ve got to take bits, and use that going forward.

“It’s tough when you have a short period to turn around, everyone is sore after the game on Wednesday night but everyone’s recovering well, they’re doing their bits and doing the best they can to prepare in the right way and I think this game is going to come at a good time.”

Irish morale was bruised by that loss to Serbia in Belgrade but O’Shea bore the scars literally of battle, as he boasts a bruise on his forehead, the outcome of a clash with Aleksandar Mitrovic, the bulky Serbian forward who came off the bench and spurred his country on to victory with two goals. “I just got kicked in the head during the game, by Mitrovic, I’m not too sure when it happened,” says O’Shea, brushing off the wound to focus on the job at hand.

“You’ve got to be willing to put your body anywhere. As a defender, I’ve got to give my all and put my body where maybe some other players wouldn’t put it. Especially for your country, you’ve got to do that,” he says, his teenage frame steeled by games in the shirt of St Jude’s, where multiple All-Ireland winner Kevin McManamon was a club-mate.

The St Kevin’s Boys graduate made his Ireland U-21 debut against Luxembourg three years ago this week, a fairly facile 3-0 win at a time when Stephen Kenny managed the U-21s, but this test tonight is another level.

His club have conceded more goals than any other Premier League side this season and the Baggies appear bound for the Championship, but tonight he’s in a team that begin the game as clear favourites.

“Obviously Luxembourg have picked up recently and they’ve had some good performances and results. They’re still a threat up top, we can identify that from looking at them and we know ourselves as a defensive unit we can’t switch off and it’s up to the lads up front to do their bit, too,” he added. “So it’s all collective, but Luxembourg aren’t definitely going to roll over for us, it’s a huge task at hand as well.”

Stepping up and wearing the green shirt in so many big games at such a young age is a task too but one that O’Shea is willing to meet head on.

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Online Editors