Soccer

Ireland defender Dara O'Shea says he will relish the French test in Dublin

Dara O'Shea was keen to stress that Ireland has quality as well as the star-studded French
Dara O'Shea was keen to stress that Ireland has quality as well as the star-studded French

REPUBLIC of Ireland defender Dara O’Shea says he will “relish” the challenge of facing World Cup finalists France in Monday night’s Euro 2024 showdown in Dublin.

The in-form West Bromwich Albion man also reminded the assembled media in Abbotstown on Friday that while the French have an embarrassment of riches, there is plenty of quality in Irish ranks too.

Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembélé are just some of the names the Republic of Ireland will have to contend with in two days’ time – but O’Shea was keen to talk up his own team-mates.

“At the end of the day, these are the best players in the world,” said O’Shea, who turned 23 earlier this month.

“It's going to be a tough task but if we do what we do and stay concentrated and that's the main thing, staying switched on. We can't really let up. There's no room for error in these situations, so we have to give it our best.

“We're all good players at the end of the day, we're playing at a high level and if we all pull together in the same direction, I think that's going to be massive, as a team.”

With O’Shea likely to play on the left side of Ireland’s central back three, he might be spared some one-on-one situations with PSG star Mbappe as the new French captain likes to play on the left flank and cut in from there.

Dembélé could be the one French attacker O’Shea may have to mind at the Aviva Stadium.

“I think, for me, it’s something I relish. As a young lad coming up, you want to play against the best to try and be the best, so when you get opportunities like this and nights like these you want to be a part of it, you want to be playing against them and seeing where you are.

“It's a great opportunity for lots of us, we haven't maybe played in games like this before and played against certain players like these, so it’s a massive opportunity.

“These are the games you want to be involved in as a footballer. You want to play against the best footballers in the world and they have some of them. It's an exciting game.”

O’Shea is clocking up his international appearances under Stephen Kenny although he missed nine months after suffering a fractured ankle while playing for his country against Portugal in Faro during the previous qualification campaign.

But he’s bounced back from that injury, sustained in September 2021, and is enjoying arguably the best form of his career at club level.

“It has been definitely,” O’Shea said of his form this season, with West Brom sitting within touching distance of the Championship play-offs

“Last season was obviously disappointing with injury and this season was really successful by playing every minute. My form has picked up a lot too and we’re pushing for play-offs.”

Kenny has plenty of defensive options ahead of Monday night’s Euro 2024 qualifying opener. John Egan, who came on as a late substitute in last Wednesday’s 3-2 friendly win over Latvia, will almost certainly return to the centre of the Irish defence.

Nathan Collins, currently out of favour at Wolves, is likely to be retained alongside O’Shea. It remains to be seen where Seamus Coleman fits into the manager’s plans with the Everton man expected to recover from a thigh strain having not been named in the squad for the Latvia friendly.

Kenny talked up Coleman’s recent club form - so the Killybegs native could occupy the right wing-back berth or possibly be on the right side of Egan in a three-pronged central defensive system.

O’Shea, for one, is looking forward to seeing Coleman pull on the green jersey again, which would be his 62nd cap on Monday.

“Seamus has been amazing for this country,” said the Dubliner.

“He is a great human at the end of the day and as a footballer he has been unbelievable. He really is the leader in the group and instils that. He’s been great for the young lads coming through, you always need someone who is going to be there and welcome you with open arms and he's been that person from the very start.

“It’s a young team, the average age was quite young the other day and players like him coming back into the fold are great for us.

“You need players who have the experience of playing in these games.”