by Leighton Cullen
After sixteen years of impeccable service at the top of the game internationally it is with great sadness from an Irish football supporter’s view that Shay Given has decided to hang up the gloves. In a way the announcement this week was on the cards following a disappointing Euros both personally and as part of an under-performing Ireland side. However, although it’s undoubtedly a sad way to part ways, Shay can leave with his head held high.
During those sixteen wonderful years – during which he accrued an unbelievable 125 caps – there were so many highs and from his debut onwards against Russia in 1996 his commanding presence and gravity-defying shot-stopping has made him a pivotal figure in our recent history.
In that time he has seen close up the madness of Keane and the cheating of Henry to the glory days of the World Cup and Euros.
Shay was there when Roy walked out in Saipon and during that time he stepped up to the mark and became more vocal – a much-needed leader in the absence of a born one. During that campaign he was a shining light at the peak of his powers.Then came the Stan (Staunton) years. How Stan got the job we will never know but Given was so loyal to the Irish shirt he gave it his all to help out a former team mate to stay in his job. Sadly for Stan it was a step too far.
Roll on to the biggest low and that night in Paris where the Irish team were robbed by the hand of Henry. Shay was incandescent at the decision and you felt it wasn’t just being deprived of a major tournament that so incensed him – it was witnessing a cheat prosper; an grievous insult to one of the toughest but fairest competitors around
Fortunately Shay and his team mates used that massive low as motivation to qualify for this summer’s Euros despite it being the worst Ireland team for decades. Although the results went against us at least it was fitting that this extraordinarily gifted keeper got the opportunity to bow out on the big stage.
Ireland will miss Shay dreadfully; he was a real character in the dressing room and you only have to see the depth of praise and best wishes posted by his colleagues on Twitter to realise just how well regarded he is.
I would like to personally thank Shay for his loyalty and service. He was Ireland’s greatest goalkeeper of all time and a legend to the green jersey.
Those boots – and gloves – are going to be hard to fill.