JOHN O’Shea insists there is sufficient self-belief in the Ireland camp to become record breakers in their Euro 2012 group.
Ireland head into Sunday’s European Championships opener against Croatia on the back of a 14-game unbeaten run after Monday’s goalless friendly with Hungary.
Should Giovanni Trapattoni’s remain unbeaten in their group games with Croatia, Spain and Italy, they will equal Ireland’s longest ever unbeaten run of 17 – set during Jack Charlton’s stint as manager.
Sunderland defender O’Shea realises the magnitude of that task, but says Ireland are not daunted by the prospect in their first major tournament since the 2002 World Cup.
O’Shea said: “We still have a few training sessions to go before we get to Croatia and who knows what can happen.
“But the belief we’ve built up in the group is fantastic no matter if we do have to make one or two changes at the last minute.
“Fourteen games unbeaten is something we’re proud of, but we know as well that we’re going to have to take our chances.
“We had a little bit of luck defensively against Hungary, but getting through the game without any major concerns for everyone was the most important thing.”
“To stay unbeaten in the group would be a fantastic way to do it and it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest. There are a lot of positives for us, but there’s also still a lot of hard work to do yet.”
O’Shea played the full 90 minutes against Hungary in his first outing since suffering an ankle injury in Sunderland’s final game of the season against his former club Manchester United.
But the 31-year-old claims the injury was never going to see him miss out on featuring in Poland and Ukraine.
“I could have carried on for Sunderland until the end, but I came off in the game against Man United as more of a precautionary thing,” he added.
“You never say you’re 100 per cent sure, but I knew once I’d trained four or five days beforehand I was going to be OK as such.
“But it’s always one of those things with the ankle — you can still go over on it at any stage, so I’m still going to have to keep an eye on it and then hopefully get through all the group games if selected and look forward to a good tournament.”
Meanwhile, Sunderland continue to be linked with a move for O’Shea’s Republic of Ireland team-mate Aiden McGeady.
The winger, who worked under Martin O’Neill at Celtic, is thought to be keen to leave Russian club Spartak Moscow this summer, despite having two years left to run on his contract.
O’Neill is keen to add width to his squad and, with one of Sunderland’s leading targets, Junior Hoilett, on the verge of a move to Borussia Monchengladbach, McGeady fits the bill as a more than capable alternative.
The biggest hurdle towards any deal would be the fee, with Spartak eager to recruit the bulk of the £9.5million they paid Celtic two years ago to land the 26-year-old.