On the day Sea The Stars was retired, Giovanni Trapattoni confirmed he would be running the risk of giving his champion thoroughbred an outing too many.
The Italian has enough trust in Shay Given to be confident that the Manchester City goalkeeper can avoid the booking this evening against Montenegro that would rule him out of the first leg of next month's World Cup play-off. It would also sour the momentous occasion of gaining his 100th international cap at Croke Park, leaving Trapattoni open to accusations of sentimental madness.
After all, he is leaving Keith Andrews and Aiden McGeady out of the side this evening for the very same reason; that one mistimed challenge could have grave consequences. Trapattoni is reluctant, too, to promote Paul McShane and Leon Best, even though they will be benched for November's winner takes-all encounters barring a spate of injuries. With his outfield players, the approach is pragmatic but with Given a different set of rules apply. This is his big night. His children, Shayne and Sienna, will be present for their first ever Irish game as their father – and Kevin Kilbane – receive the adulation they deserve for outstanding years of service. "Trap" was never going to spoil that party, though he indicated on Sunday that he may turn it into a 45-minute celebration.
Given's booking was for time-wasting against Cyprus last October, a charge he contested. Considering it is one of just three bookings in 99 Irish appearances, it is safe to assume he will stay out of the referee Vladimir Hrinak's notepad this evening. Nothing is impossible, however.
"It was a peculiar situation when he was booked," Trapattoni said. "It's rare for a goalkeeper to be booked. In midfield, there is a struggle and there are fouls But a goalkeeper, no."
For his part, Given, who has been awarded the captaincy for the evening is confident of staying out of trouble. "You've got to use your experience and if you're not 100 per cent sure in your mind that you're going to get the ball," he said. "I've been around the block a few times, so I can hopefully make the right decision."
Amid the party organising, it was easy to forget there's a game on this evening. Shorn of Stevan Jovetic and Mirko Vucinic, Montenegro are a depleted outfit and with no tangible prize, anticipation is minimal.
Trapattoni's caution over possible yellow cards in midfield means Martin Rowlands and Liam Miller will man the engine room when both would struggle to make the squad if Whelan, Keith Andrews, Darron Gibson and Steven Reid were available or considered for selection.
In his opening address, Trapattoni stressed that the need for a positive result was threefold; to build confidence, to regain the winning mentality and to secure world ranking points with a view to the future. They pale in comparison, however, to the importance of keeping Given out of trouble.Reuse content