Seamus Coleman will be only too delighted to hand over the armband — for one game only, mind — when John O’Shea leads the Irish team out on his 118th and final appearance in the green shirt at the Aviva tomorrow.
“He’s been an unbelievable player as everyone knows and what he’s done in the game has been exceptional,” says Coleman.
“I just keep going back to him as a person and what he has done around the hotel, being as modest as he is, helpful as he is, no ego.
“You could just be in the door and be a nervous lad and be looking at him like ‘there’s John O’Shea’, but he’s the most modest and down to earth guy and always there for every player. I don’t think there are many better to learn from and look up to.”
Listening to Coleman, you can’t help thinking that he could be talking about himself.
“He’s not changed a day in his life and that’s as true as God,” he continues.
“I’ve not heard him moan about the place. Obviously, he’s got standards on the training pitch which is understandable but he never gets carried away with anything.
“He is a perfect example for all of us in that changing room.
“I’ve been around the game long enough now to know that sometimes when people aren’t playing they can be a negative influence around the place, at club level or whatever the case may be.
“John understood there were certain games he wouldn’t be playing in but up around the snack room in the evenings when we have our get-togethers, just chatting to him, he never looked like he had a face on him.
"He always understood the process and fully backed the manager’s decisions. If John O’Shea is getting on with things then everyone else should too.”
A big difference between O’Shea and Coleman in terms of achievement, of course, is that as a Manchester United player, the Waterford man got to taste Champions League and Premier League glory.
“It’s incredible to think that he has done that,” says the Everton full-back. “It’s probably getting harder and harder now for any Irish player to emulate what he’s done.
"The top teams now can throw money at all sorts of players. That group of players we had, we were very lucky — Robbie (Keane), Shay (Given), (Damien) Duff, (Richard) Dunne and Sheasy.
"It’s probably harder and harder to see that level of quality coming through, especially your Robbie Keanes. But you have to hope.
“We have a few young players in the squad now. You don’t want to put too much pressure on any young player but Declan (Rice) looks a good player and is doing really well in training. He has a great head on his shoulders.
“When I came into the squad first, I just got my head down and respected the people around me. But not respecting them so much to not get stuck in in training and show why I should be in the team.
"Declan is the same. He is a very likeable lad but when he trains, he trains well. You don’t want to put too much pressure on him but he looks really good at the minute and has done really well at West Ham.”
But as another veteran prepares to call it a day for Ireland, Coleman says he fully accepts Roy Keane’s call for the remaining senior players to lead by example on the pitch — something Martin O’Neill’s assistant specifically charged that they hadn’t done in the March friendly defeat to Turkey.
“No matter where you look, international or club level, when results aren’t going well you do look, and should look, to the senior pros to lift the standards to make sure everything is done properly,” says Coleman.
“You can’t be expecting the likes of Seanie (Maguire) or Declan Rice, to be dragging us forward.
"It’s up to us as senior players to do that and I have no problem with that.”
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