Given: Hopefully this is our time
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The Republic of Ireland's UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying campaign will present a tense end for Shay Given, knowing his chances to go to another major tournament are running out.

The 35-year-old Aston Villa goalkeeper represented his country at the 2002 FIFA World Cup™ finals in Korea/Japan and like his senior colleagues in the squad, has been desperate to taste that excitement once again.

However, despite a near-miss two years ago when a heartbreaking controversial play-off defeat by France denied them a trip to South Africa, the Republic have yet to win a return to the big stage. But that could all change in the space of one week's time as they head into their final two Group B games against Andorra and Armenia, knowing a place at next summer's finals in Poland and the Ukraine could be theirs for the taking.

Given, along with the likes of John O'Shea, Kevin Kilbane, Richard Dunne, Damien Duff and Robbie Keane, is well aware that the clock is ticking down on them. "You can call us senior or getting old or whatever, but we know we haven't got many years left to qualify, so hopefully we can do it before we retire from international football," Given said.

"We are running out of opportunities to do that, so hopefully this will be our time. It's too early to say when my last one is, but I know there are not many left, to be honest, so hopefully we can do it this time."

Ireland may yet have to settle for the play-offs, although having experienced both the highs and lows of the winner-takes-all shoot-out over the years, Given is keen to avoid it if at all possible.

It's too early to say when my last one is, but I know there are not many left.
Shay Given, Republic of Ireland goalkeeper

"Keen, but at the same time, we would take it as well because it was a tough group that we were drawn in," Given said. "But we have got to just keep focused on Friday and if it comes to a play-off after that or whatever, then we have got to deal with that as well."

Given, who won his 116th senior international cap in Russia last month, has been a mainstay of the Ireland team for the last 15 years. His standards have remained impeccable despite a chaotic conclusion to his time at Newcastle United and an intensely frustrating spell as number two to Joe Hart at Manchester City.

A summer move to Villa Park has brought regular football once again, although he is refusing to look too far ahead. Asked if a FIFA World Cup in Brazil appealed to him in two years' time, he replied: "We will wait and see. We will concentrate on this campaign first. We will decide after that what's going to happen for the World Cup."

Ireland are hot favourites to return from their trip to the Pyrenees on Friday evening with the points safely banked after beating Andorra 3-1 in Dublin in September last year. The minnows are yet to open their account and the goal they managed at the Aviva Stadium is their only one of the campaign to date.

However, six points are a must from both the Andorra game and Armenia's trip to the Aviva next Tuesday evening if the Republic are to stand a chance of pipping leaders Russia to automatic qualification. And, Given will take victory however it comes.

"I would take two 1-0s now, to be honest. The most important thing is the three points. We would love to go out and entertain people and win 5-0 or 6-0, but international football is not like that. We can't say we can't do that, but the most important thing is to win the game and if it's 1-0, then I would take it now for sure."

There has been speculation in Ireland that Giovanni Trapattoni's contract will be renewed if he guides his side to at least the play-offs, and Given admits he would happy to see the manager and his staff stay. "I have always said we are fantastically lucky to have a manager of Giovanni Trapattoni's quality and hopefully we can keep him longer than the games coming up. I suppose we will need to get the results first, but hopefully we can do that for the manager."