Sunderland’s O’Shea makes successful Ireland comeback

INJURY CONCERN ... Sunderland and  Republic of Ireland ace John O'Shea.
INJURY CONCERN ... Sunderland and Republic of Ireland ace John O'Shea.
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JOHN O’SHEA came through his injury comeback unscathed as the Republic of Ireland endured an uninspiring dress rehearsal for the European Championships.

Sunderland defender O’Shea played the full 90 minutes of Ireland’s 0-0 draw in Hungary last night after spending three weeks on the sidelines with the ankle injury sustained in the Black Cats’ final day defeat to Manchester United.

The 31-year-old has declared himself fit for the tournament in Poland and Ukraine, which begins for Ireland against Croatia, in Poznan, on Sunday.

But the former Manchester United man admits he must remain cautious with his injury as he prepares to represent his country in a major tournament for the first time.

O’Shea said: “I knew that once I trained four or five days I’d be okay.

“With the ankle you can go over on it at any stage so I’m going to have keep an eye on it.”

O’Shea – played at right-back – was one of two Sunderland players who featured last night, with goalkeeper Keiren Westwood impressing after being introduced as a half-time replacement for Shay Given, who made three fine saves before the break. Westwood made a smart stop to deny Hungary striker Adam Szalai, with Ireland forced to doggedly defend their own goal for long periods.

But there was no outing from the bench for James McClean, with the Sunderland winger now almost certain to start among the substitutes against Croatia.

Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni had signalled that the starting line-up which began yesterday’s clash, was likely to remain in place at the weekend.

But the Italian appeared to make a slight U-turn last night, by indicating that he could tinker with the 4-4-2 system which has served him so well during his four-year reign, by sacrificing a striker.

Trapattoni said: “When we meet a team with one striker, I know that, between two lines, we are in difficulty.

“To have a balance, we have to give up one striker or put one more in midfield.

“In the past, I know this position, I know this line-up.

“I will speak with the team and I will show them our difficulty because we need to take a decision to sacrifice a striker or we need to change the situation.

“I wanted to use this game to evaluate if there was a need to change.

“Hungary played very well – quick, fast football. They are strong in every section.”