Healthy lifestyle paying dividend for Shay Given

Whilst his lack of game-time at Stoke City carries its own concerns into his Ireland situation, Shay Given has cracked the formula for lifting his legacy into the realm of the great Dino Zoff.

The Italian was 40 when hoisting the 1982 World Cup, the same age Given will be should Ireland negotiate their way to next year’s European Championship in France, whether it be automatically over the upcoming five days or through next month’s play-off route.

It is games like the visit of the world champions on Thursday that convinced Given to revise his post-Euro 2012 retirement into a temporary stay from the scene he first entered in 1996.

His activity levels at club level are a far cry from his pomp at Newcastle United and Manchester City, yet Ireland has been the beneficiary from the time Martin O’Neill restored Given to the starting line-up for the qualifier against Poland in March.

Although the Donegal man has since swapped Aston Villa for Stoke City, his reputation as Ireland’s first-choice stopper hasn’t waned, despite Darren Randolph playing more Premier League games than him this term for West Ham United and Keiren Westwood being a Championship regular at Sheffield United.

A clue to his longevity could be observed on the first day of training ahead for the game against Germany as he spent the journey across the pitch towards the awaiting media drinking from a plastic bottle.

Given said: “What has kept me going this long? I suppose it’s from taking advice about little bits off the pitch. Things like having a protein shake and doing yoga, stretching and gym work - all the things people don’t see.

“I’ve looked at other goalkeepers like Brad Friedel, Edwin van der Sar and Mark Schwarzer and been inspired. You get inspiration from other guys who go on long into their careers.

“I’m as fit as I’ve been during my whole career. My body fat is my lowest ever. I feel good and sharp in training. That’s all you can go on for now. When I did sort of retire from Ireland, I missed meeting up with the lads and pulling on the jersey because it is a huge honour. That’s never changed and I missed the buzz of coming to Dublin and representing Ireland.

“I’m enjoying it of course but I’ve to see how this next week goes. It will have a big say into what I do in the future. You probably have to ask the man Martin O’Neill what the future holds but I’ve not really thought about it.

“I’ll be 42 by the time of the next World Cup and, with the chances of me being involved then are very slim. That’s why this is such a big week for me personally.” First up is the task of derailing the freight-train of World Cup winners Germany.

“They didn’t start this campaign well - maybe it was a World Cup hangover - but they’re back up to speed now and the German team we all know,” he said.

“However, Scotland played well against the Germans, scored twice were maybe unlucky not to get a late equaliser.”

Irrespective of Given’s international future, the disappointment for him of Jack Grealish switching allegiance from Ireland last week was evident, especially for the future ramifications.

“My negotiating skills with Jack weren’t enough,” joked the stopper about his former Villa teammate.

“Jack is a great talent and we wish that we could have nicked him because he’d definitely be a mainstay of this Ireland team. At the minute, you’d say he’d be more of a fringe player with the England squad.

“It’s a big worry for me that there’s no influx of talented players. We need another Damien Duff, Robbie Keane or Richard Dunne but I don’t see them.

“I think GAA takes a lot of the good youngsters away, and the rugby is doing well. Some of them go down that route.”


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