Given ready for play-off challenge
Goalkeeper Shay Given has promised the Republic of Ireland's play-off opponents they will give them a fight whoever they are.
The draw for next summer's finals in Poland and the Ukraine will take place on Thursday with Giovanni Trapattoni's men seeded alongside Portugal, Croatia and the Czech Republic. That means they will face either Turkey, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Estonia or Montenegro over two legs next month, although Given is not too concerned about who comes their way.
Asked for his preference, Given said with a smile: "Somebody easy. We will just take it on the chin. Whoever we play will know they are in for a very tough game when they come here, and we will give them a tough game at their home place as well."
He added: "Please God, we can get across the line this time and get through the play-offs."
Given, of course, has experienced both the joy of play-off success and the bitter pain of defeat. He was in the team which saw off Iran to make the 2002 World Cup finals, but suffered the heartache of failure, and not for the first time, in France two years ago as dreams of a return to the biggest stage of all went up in smoke.
At 35, he knows his chances of making another major finals tournament are receding and for that reason, he had no qualms about accepting the good fortune that came Ireland's way on Tuesday night as they ran out 2-1 victors over Armenia at the Aviva Stadium to finish second in Group B
Armenia keeper Roman Berezovsky was sent off after 26 minutes for handling Simon Cox's shot outside his area, although replays suggested he was innocent, and that the ball had brushed the striker's arm first.
Add to that Valeri Aleksanyan's 44th-minute own goal and Richard Dunne's second, which he bundled home after substitute keeper Arsen Petrosyan had spilled Aiden McGeady's cross on the hour, and it was difficult to argue fate had not smiled on the Republic when they needed it most.
Given said: "I was a long way off, but it looked to me like handball. But people are then saying it maybe hit him in the chest. I don't know, but maybe we are due a little bit of luck. We got a little bit, but we scored a couple of good goals and we are just happy.
"Sometimes you have just got to enjoy it and we will enjoy the victory and we will enjoy getting 21 points in the group. It's been a long campaign and hopefully we can finish it off next month."
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