Dara O'Shea not content just to be playing for the Republic of Ireland
FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifying Group A: Republic of Ireland v Luxembourg (tonight, Aviva Stadium Dublin, 7.45pm)
ONCE Dara O’Shea gained his first possession of the ball in Belgrade and sent a short, incisive pass into midfield, you could tell he was a disciple of Stephen Kenny and the new Irish way.
A regular in Kenny’s U21 team, it mightn’t be too long before the 22-year-old Dubliner is a mainstay of the senior team.
A few eyebrows were raised when he was chosen to play against Serbia instead of Shane Duffy – but Kenny’s decision was fully justified despite the Irish losing their World Cup qualifying opener 3-2.
The Republic of Ireland manager may change from Wednesday night’s 3-5-2 formation and go with a flat back four to face Luxembourg tonight – but regardless of the tactics, O’Shea is almost certain to start at the heart of the defence again.
Sporting a bruise on his forehead courtesy of the boot of Aleksandar Mitrovic on Wednesday, O’Shea will win his sixth senior international cap as the Republic aim to record their first win under Kenny and get their 2022 World Cup qualification campaign up and running.
Speaking via a zoom call yesterday afternoon, the West Bromwich Albion defender says he won’t be content by just starting games for his country.
“It has happened very quickly, obviously for me to play it’s a great feeling,” he said. “But I don’t just want to play, I want to win. I want to dominate.
“I need to take everything I can and utilise this experience going forward. We have some great players here, some players who have so many caps for their country, who have captained their country.
“It's great to get the opportunity to play these games, games for your country where there's something at stake. It's sink or swim, you have to take your opportunity, football is all about taking opportunities and not looking too far ahead.”
O’Shea, who played for St Jude’s GAA club in Dublin, made his senior international debut in the Nations League away defeat to Finland last October.
He has probably benefited from the loss of form of Shane Duffy with the on-loan Celtic defender facing a battle to get back into the Republic of Ireland’s starting line-up.
Even though he didn’t feature against Serbia, Duffy’s non-playing contribution around the camp was warmly praised by O’Shea and Kenny yesterday.
In just a few short months on the senior stage, O’Shea, who is first choice at English Premier League club WBA, said: “I have grown as a person, matured a lot and have got more confidence as I have gone on.
“It's to do with mentality; if your head is right and you are in the right frame of mind you play your best football, so I’ve been better at preparing for the games and I’m going in with confidence.”
O’Shea and his defensive partners are not likely to be half as busy as they were in Belgrade on Wednesday night but they still have to be vigilant against a minnow who claimed the scalps of Cyprus and Montenegro in last autumn’s Nations League.
"Obviously Luxembourg have picked up recently and they've had some good performances and results. They're still a threat up top, we can identify that from looking at them and we know ourselves as a defensive unit we can't switch off and it's up to the lads up front to do their bit, too."