From the highs of Lansdowne Road on Thursday last to the deflating low on a what might have been night in Warsaw, it’s been a week of contrasting emotions for Ferrybank’s John O’Shea.
Captaining the Republic of Ireland in both European Championship qualifiers, the Sunderland centre-back was as overjoyed as any man in green in the wake of his side’s famous 1-0 win over World Champions Germany.
But three nights later, in the midst of a testing contest with the white-hot Robert Lewandowski, a poor Robbie Brady pass left O’Shea illegally impeding the Bayern Munich attacker, leading to a second yellow card. While the second carding couldn’t be reasoned against, the first yellow, again for a foul on Lewandowski, was highly questionable to put it mildly.
This dismissal leaves O’Shea out of Martin O’Neill’s plans for the first leg of the forthcoming play-off, a match he’ll also have to plan without the similarly suspended Jonathan Walters.
“I didn’t think [Lewandowski] was actually going anywhere at the time, and John could have maybe used his experience there in that case,” his manager reflected in the wake of Sunday’s 2-1 defeat.
Following Thursday’s magnificent win over the Germans, an elated O’Shea stated: “A manager is always going to be asked questions when things aren’t going so well or performances aren’t up to scratch but the management team have built up a great camaraderie in the squad.
“You’ve seen that in the impact that the subs have had coming on in games, the late goals we’ve been able to get. It’s not by accident.”
John continued: “There’s a great spirit amongst the lads and hopefully we’ll see it again on Sunday. [Martin] was delighted with the result. He doesn’t want players happy when they’re not picked in the team but the reaction Shane [Long] gave was amazing. He comes on and gives everyone a big belief.
“Thankfully, Shane got that goal and I think it shows the attitude that the lads, the squad, has shown, that the management team have built up around the squad ever since the start of the campaign…
“The performance is a credit to the lads that came in as well. Wardy, Cyrus and Richie… then you lose Shay early on in the game, you know you are going to need your subs later on because the boys were putting in so much of a shift. Big credit goes to Robbie Brady when he went in at left-back.
“Little Wes… the shift he put in for us! The way he kept the ball at vital times to help us to get a breather and recover while Darren Randolph was amazing when he came on.”
Fast forward to Sunday night, and Martin O’Neill stated that Ireland’s lack of intensity “wasn’t intentional,” adding: “the players were absolutely ready for the game, but it was hard to replicate that effort only a couple of days later away from home against a very fine Polish side who may go on and do very well in France.
“But we are still there and whoever we play, we will be as ready as we possibly can be.” Half the job, if is to be done, shall have to be achieved without John O’Shea.