John O’Shea’s enduring excellence should be Ireland’s inspiration – a personal view

John O’Shea’s enduring excellence should be Ireland’s inspiration – a personal view

The considerable contribution made by John O’Shea to Manchester United’s success this season is surely a cause of celebration for all those who love the beautiful game. His impeccable sportsmanship masks the sharp competitive instincts that will be needed when Ireland travel to Bulgaria seeking World Cup points
14th May 2009
John O’Shea’s magnificent form for Manchester United this season might well be the encouragement Ireland need to inspire a win over Bulgaria that would, inevitably, be of critical importance in the World Cup race.

Ireland look forward to the match in Sofia on June 6th enjoying a significant five points lead over Bulgaria. A win for Ireland would impact hugely on the relative prospects of both teams, even if Bulgaria have played one match fewer than Ireland.

And if Ireland are looking for a ‘feel-good’ factor from the English season ahead of this important contest, they need look no further than John O’Shea and his enormous contribution to Manchester United’s successful season.

His influence was never more critically demonstrated than it was on Wednesday when United rescued a potentially disastrous situation after falling a goal behind to Wigan Athletic.

O’Shea played a vital part in setting up United’s winning goal from Michael Carrick in the 87th minute.

The season now drawing to a close in England has been described in recent weeks as O’Shea’s most successful for United and it is easy to see why.

United has been O’Shea’s only club since he first signed professional forms in 2000 but he has never played as regularly in United’s first team as he has done this season.

His consistently good form has been affirmed by manager Alex Ferguson who is on record as saying that O’Shea will play in the Champions’ League final against Barcelona.

O’Shea is 28 and has 53 international appearances at senior level since his introduction on August 15, 2001 as substitute in a friendly against Croatia at Lansdowne Road.

It was not the most distinguished of debuts for he conceded the penalty that enabled Croatia draw the match 2-2. But his brilliant career at Old Trafford and with the Republic of Ireland developed consistently from that point so that now he occupies a position of privilege with club and national team.

It is to his enduring credit that his distinction, his flawless reputation in such a competitive business and his increasingly crowded trophy cabinet have not been allowed to adversely affect his personality and natural good-humour.

O’Shea is quietly-spoken and well-mannered. In his own inimitable way he has shown that those who have occasionally suggested that his natural reserve has somehow limited his impact on the game are out-of-touch. He has shown there is more than one way to reach the top.

It is a truism to suggest that the so-called football critics – of whom there are more than enough – too often apply analysis that is based upon one preferred way of playing the game.

John O’Shea gives the lie to that bias for he has proved you do not need to be driven by the most basic warrior characteristics to be a resolute and effective defensive player. He has done so because he is naturally an exceptional athlete and is possessed of a generous range of marvellous technical skills.

His calm and distinctive approach to the demands of competition mark him as a formidable opponent. O’Shea has not had to play the game with a permanent scowl to be successful and, for that, all who love football will applaud him.

His focus for now will be centred upon Manchester United’s needs and the upcoming decisive matches in the Premier League and the Champions’ League.

Ireland’s calls will kick in when the squad gathers in London for the friendly against Nigeria on Friday, May 29, in preparation for the critical World Cup qualifier against Bulgaria in Sofia on June 6.

The confident and serene manner in which John O’Shea has coped with the rigours of a tough season and the recurring challenge of a battalion of fiercely determined opponents will surely be an incentive and a source of encouragement to his international colleagues.

He will hardly be asked to apply his talents to meeting the challenge of Nigeria so soon after the club season’s climax in Rome, but Ireland’s fans will draw confidence from his presence in the emerald green shirt in Sofia when Ireland look to lay claim to passports to South Africa in 2010.

A personal view was written by billy george