O'Shea: Given was hero for Ireland
John O'Shea has hailed Shay Given's stubborn resistance as the bedrock of Ireland's Euro 2012 victory in Macedonia.
Skipper Robbie Keane may have grabbed the headlines with a match-winning double which took him through the 50-goal barrier at international level, but had it not been for the excellence of 35-year-old goalkeeper Given, the striker's heroics at the other end might have counted for little.
O'Shea said: "Shay had obviously hurt his groin quite early in the game, but some of the saves he pulled off were fantastic and just his sheer presence was so important."
The Manchester City man made a superb one-on-one stop from dangerman Goran Pandev shortly after Keane had opened the scoring, and despite playing for much of the game with a groin injury, made an equally impressive save from substitute Mario Durovski as the Macedonians staged a late rally.
He added: "There was one stage where I had to pass it back to him in the second half because I was quite close to him. But another time, I went to pass it back and I realised he was struggling with his kicking, and I had to shift and turn quickly and clear it. Robbie and Shay - they are absolute heroes for Ireland."
That is a view shared by manager Giovanni Trapattoni, who has more than once recommended club bosses in his native country to snap Given up with his chances at Eastlands having been severely limited by Joe Hart's emergence.
Asked about his goalkeeper in the wake of his performance at the Philip II Stadium, the Italian said: "I was joking and I said to him, 'You are lucky, you can play until 42 or 45' - I had Dino Zoff playing at 42. I think he can continue with his mentality and professionalism."
Whether or not his future lies in Italy, Given will not play against the national team in Liege on Tuesday night with himself and Kevin Kilbane excused from the squad for a coaching course, while Keane has also been sent home as a reward for his efforts in Macedonia.
Keith Fahey has dropped out with a swollen knee, and O'Shea will not be involved either with his wife due to give birth imminently. But both Aiden McGeady and Stephen Hunt passed up the opportunity to start their summer break a few days early. Trapattoni said: "This is commitment to our shirt. This is important. They show us they are keen to play."
Shane Long, who was used only as a substitute in Skopje, is likely to be partnered by Andy Keogh in attack with newcomer Simon Cox rested. Sean St Ledger, who scored in the 2-2 World Cup qualifier draw with the Italians in October 2009, could start at the back after just missing out in Macedonia.