Former Ireland international Shay Given has outlined his fears regarding the next generation of Ireland internationals.
Speaking at the eir Sport season launch in Dublin on Wednesday, the goalkeeper reflected on a disappointing night for the Boys in Green against Serbia which leaves their hope of qualifying for the World Cup next year hanging by a thread.
While the immediate focus for Martin O’Neill is on the crucial double-header against Moldova and Wales next month, Given wonders where the next line of talented Irish youngsters is going to come from:
“I think the bigger concern would be the conveyor belt of players coming through, the likes of a new Robbie or a new Duffer or Dunney.
“There’s been a lot of media stuff going around this week about Wes [Hoolahan], should he play, shouldn’t he play, and maybe rightly so, maybe wrongly so. He’s a quality player, don’t get me wrong, but he’s 35 years of age so you’re pinning all your hopes on someone who’s coming to the latter part of his career.
“I think there’s a bit of a void if I’m being honest, I suppose the immediate concern is next month’s games but the bigger picture is the conveyor belt.”
With Ireland suffering from a notable lack of penetration throughout this campaign (two goals in four home games speaks for itself), it was put to Given as to whether someone like Preston North End striker might be given a chance to impress against Moldova, and the 41-year-old seemed to hint that with Robbie Brady and James McClean both suspended there could well be an opening for the former Cork City man:
“With Brady and McClean both suspended, they’ll be talking about Wes again, ‘should we hold him back for the Welsh game,’ there’ll be an opportunity for a few players I think.
“The squad is strong enough to not miss those guys against Moldova but we’ll need them for the Welsh game and I think [Maguire] might get a chance, yeah.”
Overall though, Given feels that the runners-up spot will, regardless of how tough Wales find it in Georgia, come down to that clash in Cardiff at the very end of the group – and he thinks that our big-game mentality can see Ireland through it:
“On our day, we can produce a big performance like we have done in the past – Germany, Bosnia, Italy in the Euros last summer, there’s been big games where we’ve had to deliver and credit to the lads, we’ve delivered.”