John O'Shea

O'Shea: Trio ready for big time

Published:
by Stuart Vose

Club colleagues can play key roles, says defender.

By Colin Young

As he prepares for the start of the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup qualifying campaign in the unlikely setting of Kazakhstan tonight, John O’Shea has delivered his verdict on Sunderland team-mates Keiren Westwood, James McClean and David Meyler.

O’Shea, who captained his country for the first time last month, is a definite starter for the World Cup 2014 qualifier in Astana.

The former Manchester United man, who is over the disappointment of Ireland’s Euro 2012 exit, will partner Toronto’s Darren O’Dea in central defence with veteran Richard Dunne out injured.

Also guaranteed a start as Shay Given’s long-term replacement is keeper Keiren Westwood, making only his second competitive start for his country.

O’Shea has no doubt the former Carlisle and Coventry stopper, who has started the season as Simon Mignolet’s deputy, can handle the big occasion.

He said: “I know Keiren quite well. You saw in the friendly in Serbia and in the last qualifying campaign, he did fantastic and he’s more than capable of doing it.

“Westy will give a lot of confidence to the team as well. It’s not just being in goal saving shots, his delivery with his left foot is fantastic. He could be one of our secret weapons too.

“We’re sick of his voice at the end of the game - that’s what you want as a defender from a keeper.

“We’re used to hearing a Donegal accent screaming at us, we’ll know that Westy is just as loud.
 
“He came back in early to pre-season at Sunderland, it was a tough call for the manager but he picked Simon. Westy has done fantastic, he was ill for a couple of days last week, but he’s been very sharp.”

Westwood and McClean have both been suffering with a sore throat bug this week, forcing them to miss key training sessions in Dublin.

It is a particular blow for McClean, still yet to make a competitive start for Ireland and who would appear to have lost out to Nottingham Forest striker Simon Cox.

Cox, who started in Ireland’s drubbing against Spain in Poland in June, has played on the right of midfield during practice games all week, while McClean has been in bed.

O’Shea, though, is confident he will have a role to play in Ireland’s World Cup campaign. He said: “He’s going to a bit of a maverick. You saw the two goals in the League Cup, he got past and got a shot with his right foot, he nearly got a a hat-trick.

“James will have no problem, I’m sure he’ll be a fantastic asset to Ireland for many years to come.”

Which just leaves Meyler, who received a surprise call-up after Darron Gibson’s withdrawal at the weekend.

The former Cork City midfielder has three substitute appearances under his belt and is just pleased to be on the flight to Astana. He is likely to start against Oman on Tuesday night in a friendly at Craven Cottage.

O’Shea added: “I think I was playing when David did his cruciate against Manchester United.

“I was telling him at the time that he should have just left it as he is a strong boy. It's David Meyler down to a tee, wanting to win the ball and being strong in the tackle, but unfortunately there was still a weakness there.

“But he has shown courage to get back again and it shows the type of character he is.
 
“David is in fantastic form. He’s obviously worked his way back from some serious injuries and he’s worked hard to get back. And the more football he gets, the better he’ll get too.”