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Given backing for Westwood

Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given has assured the nation their Euro 2012 hopes are in safe hands with Keiren Westwood.

The 26-year-old Coventry man is set to make his competitive senior international debut in Saturday evening's qualifier against Macedonia at the Aviva Stadium with his hugely-experienced Manchester City counterpart injured.

Given told RTE: "The country is in safe hands. I have been very impressed by him since he has come into the squad."

He added: "Clubs will be looking at him in the summer as I believe his contract is up and no disrespect to Coventry, but he can move to a bigger club.

"The whole country will be behind him and the team on Saturday."

Ireland head into the game sitting in second place behind Group B leaders Russia, but level on points with Armenia and Slovakia after four games.

Given said: "We have got to win and get three points if we are realistic about qualifying.

"It's been too long since we were at a major finals. The nation needs a pick-up and the best way of doing that is by qualifying.

"We have a realistic chance, but it will be tough. Worst-case scenario, we make the play-off and get a favourable draw."

Given, 34, has been a mainstay of the national team for the last 15 years, but will be a frustrated bystander at the weekend because of a troublesome shoulder injury.

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