Given battles the hard knocks

SHAY GIVEN is successfully fighting through the pain barrier to be fit for Ireland’s game against Slovakia on Friday.

The goalkeeper injured his back in a heavy fall while playing for Aston Villa against Wolves on Saturday but his club and international colleague Richard Dunne has now revealed that this was just the latest knock for Given who, in his last competitive appearance for Ireland, needed a half-time painkilling injection to overcome a groin problem during the 2-0 win against Macedonia in Skopje in June

Speaking yesterday about the fight for fitness which has seen Given delay his arrival in Dublin to receive extra treatment at his club, Dunne said: “He’s been like that for about ten days now, he’s had injections and things. He did his back at the weekend too, another knock on top of the other ones he’d already got. He’s 35 now so he’s had quite a lot of bangs and knocks. But, regardless of how he feels, on a Saturday, he’s still great for us.”

Given received further treatment in Birmingham yesterday before flying into Dublin last night. The goalkeeper said he was “sore’’ but fully confident of taking his place between the posts on Friday.

Skipper Robbie Keane also missed yesterday’s training session but arrived at the squad’s Portmarnock base from Los Angeles last night.

While Richard Dunne, Sean St Ledger, Shane Long and Darren O’Dea all overcame niggles to take a full part in training yesterday, a fresh injury concern emerged with the news Kevin Kilbane was restricted to a walk-on part at Gannon Park after hurting his back in training on Monday.

Said assistant manager Marco Tardelli: “Kevin did not train as he felt a pull in his back but it was not clear what it was. Today he only walked but I think he will be fine and will recover.”

Clearly, Kilbane’s fitness will be a factor in determining whether he extends his remarkable run of consecutive competitive games to 67 against Slovakia or whether Stephen Ward gets the nod ahead of the evergreen.

“Maybe Kevin Kilbane has experience and (it is better) to use him in Russia (on Tuesday), I don’t know,” said Tardelli. “We need now the energy as well as the experience in this team. We will decide. It will be a question for Giovanni.”

As to what would represent a good points tally for Ireland out of Friday and Tuesday, Tardelli was hesitant about jumping the gun.

“It depends too on the match between Russia and Macedonia (in Moscow on Friday),” he said. “We focus on the Slovakia match and that is everything for us. We have a good motivation and young players who show us that they are very good.”

Finally, he added, with a grin: “Four points is good but six is better.”

Meanwhile, the Irish Examiner understands that James McCarthy, assuming he comes through his U21 duties on Thursday unscathed, will definitely be recalled to the senior panel for the trip to Moscow.

For his part, Slovakia coach Vladimir Weiss has promised to go for the win against Ireland on Friday, even though captain Marek Hamsik looks set to miss the game through injury.

“We’re not coming to Dublin just to defend, no way,’’ said Weiss.

“We have to play for a win because if we do lose, Ireland will be the favourites to qualify.

“The draw keeps everything open but we must not lose. If that happens, our chance of qualifying in first place will take a big hit.’’

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