REPUBLIC of Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given has questioned why international team-mates Aiden McGeady and James McGeady are being singled out by sections of the Tartan Army.
The two Ireland midfielders have been told to expect to run the gauntlet when they run out at Celtic Park on Friday evening after opting to represent the country of their forebears rather than that of their birth.
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Given, who had a spell at Celtic early in his career, denounced some of the rhetoric surrounding the Scotland camp in the run up to the game, but backed the Everton duo to respond in positive fashion.
He said: “They are very good players in their own right and they are both really on top of their game at the minute as well.
“You could go around every country in Europe and say there are players born in different countries who are playing for them, so I did think it was unfair.
“You can go through the Scottish squad as well and see some of their players not being born in Scotland - that’s not having a go at them, they are the rules of FIFA or whatever - so I did think it was unfair on both Aiden and James.
“But they are great players and that’s probably why we are standing here talking about them, because they [the Scots] probably wish they were playing for Scotland.”
McGeady, of course, emerged from the ranks at Celtic, where he became used to the white heat of the Old Firm derby, and that experience is likely to arm him for whatever comes his way on Friday.
Given said: “He’s well used to it with Celtic, obviously, the Old Firm as well. Aiden is a hugely talented player and right on top of his game as well. We saw in Georgia in recent times as well, he’s a fantastic player and hard to deal with.
“I have not really spoken to them [McGeady and McCarthy] about it, to be honest. But I know they are very talented players and they will be looking forward to going back to Glasgow as well and putting in a performance.
“It’s not about them personally, it’s about us getting a result, of course. The atmosphere will be spicy and they will maybe get a bit of a reaction from the fans, but it’s what we do on the pitch that matters and I am sure they are well aware of that.”
Republic boss Martin O’Neill too knows Celtic Park like the back of his hand after his five hugely successful years there as manager, and he is confident the duo will not be fazed by whatever treatment they receive from the locals.
O’Neill said: “Well, that’s their prerogative to do that there and I suppose any amount of pleading on the other side is not going to prevent anything that may occur.
“But they are very fine players and I think they are able to cope with anything that might come their way.”
Asked if he agreed with Scotland boss Gordon Strachan that any barracking would be acceptable as long as it was football-based, O’Neill replied: “Well I’m not sure I would share Gordon’s view, but there you go.”
The return to the stadium where he enjoyed perhaps the most successful spell of his managerial career is one O’Neill is relishing, but he insists his focus will be purely on the present rather than the past.
He said: “It’s a great, great stadium and I had some wonderful days there. But I am not going back to manage Celtic, I am going back to involve myself in an international game where Scotland are going to be playing at home.”
O’Neill and his players will make the short trip across the Irish Sea - although many of the nation’s most loyal fans will not after the Football Association of Ireland was handed a minimum five per cent ticket allocation, amounting to 3,209, for the game, a move which sparked an ongoing row - brimming with confidence after last month’s 1-1 draw in Germany, although knowing there is much hard work still to do.
The 62-year-old said: “That’s exactly right, we do have confidence and that big result against Germany. Scoring in the last minute of the game, taking the game to them in the last 20-odd minutes of the match when we went a goal behind, I think, has given the boys plenty of confidence.
“It’s great to be going into the game with that confidence. But Scotland, this is a tough game for us.”
O’Neill is sweating on McCarthy’s fitness after he reported having complained of tightness in his hamstring following Everton’s 1-1 Barclays Premier League draw at Sunderland on Sunday.
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