Shay Given was born April 20th, 1976 and is from the town of Lifford, Co. Donegal. He started his career with his local team, Lifford Celtic. His ability was soon noticed by Glasgow Celtic and he signed with them a year later at the young age of 15. He played with the Celtic youth team for two years and attracted attention from Blackburn Rovers and signed for them in 1994.
He found it hard to make a first team appearance for Blackburn Rovers and went on loan to Swindon Town and Sunderland. The manager of Blackburn Rovers who had since moved to Newcastle was impressed at the performances that Shay had given while on loan. He signed Given for Newcastle in 1997. Shay Given made 463 appearances for Newcastle before moving to Manchester City in 2009. He spent 2 years with Manchester City before moving to Aston Villa in 2011. Shay joined Stoke City in 2015.
Given's international career spans many years. He started playing for the Republic of Ireland as a youth, progressed to the under 21 side and was called to play with the senior side in 1996. He served Ireland well and impressed in many football campaigns. He is the most capped Irish player having played a total of 125 times for the Republic of Ireland Senior team. in 2016 Shay announced his final retirement from International football.
Shay Given was given the freedom of County Donegal in a ceremony held in his hometown of Lifford. Given is also known for his charitable deeds.
Interview with Shay Given
I owe a great debt of gratitude that can never be repaid to my upbringing in Donegal. From the family that surrounded me, to the teachers that educated me, to the friends that continue to this day to keep me grounded and longing to be home more often than I get the chance to. Unfortunately I only get home about once a year but I always look forward to crossing that bridge from Strabane into Lifford. I haven't forgotten how special my childhood was and hope that my own children grow up with the same quality memories I have.
Highlights include catching fish with hand-lines, using jumpers for goalposts in the field beside the house, building bonfires with tyres and branches for Halloween and being off school every year for a few weeks gathering spuds for my Dad.
There is a saying in Donegal (which family & friends throw at me all the time) which goes "It's far fray such-and-such that you were reared." Just in case there was any danger of my feet getting off the ground. It always makes me smile and I think of this first when I think of home.
I often come off the phone from Donegal friends or family laughing and being asked "What was all that about?!" and I'm usually at a loss to explain it with anything better than "You wouldn't understand" as the Donegal humour is sometimes hard to translate. An example is a joke I heard recently which goes; 'Donegal driving instructor asks the pupil:”What sign would you expect to see approaching a roundabout? "Pupil answers "Fresh dug pinks." Enough said.
There are so many qualities to the county, from the beautiful landscapes to the accents to the people themselves that's it's hard to summarise in words, but being given the Freedom of the County a few years ago was an immense honour for myself and my family.
Unlike my father I never played Gaelic for the County but from the very first time I walked out for the Republic of Ireland Senior International squad in 1996 aged 19 to when I walked out in Croke Park on 14th October this year for the 100th time I have always thought of the people back home and hoped that they would be proud of one of their own wearing the badge and, on occasion, the armband.
This article was written in 2009 for issue 6 of the Donegal Community in Touch Ezine.