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Byline: Michael SCULLY Chief Sports Writer

JOHN O'Shea is praying the back luck that has left Steve Staunton without seven players this week does not strike again before Ireland's emotional return to Stuttgart.

Staunton's Euro 2008 qualifiers preparations have been hit this week by the withdrawal of seven players through injury, which lessens the impact tonight's Ireland's friendly with Holland at Lansdowne Road will have.

But there are only three weeks to go to the European Championships opener against Germany on September 2 -and O'Shea wants front-line players such as Robbie Keane and Richard Dunne fighting fit for the vital challenge ahead.

Having, he says, watched in places "all over the world" in June as the Germans reached the semi-finals of the World Cup before bowing out to Italy in a cracking encounter, O'Shea is only too aware of the task ahead.

"With the quality of players we have we can cope with it and adapt to it and that's what you have to do because you never know if these lads are going to recover in time for the Germany game," said O'Shea in reference to tonight's game.

"Germany is coming around really quickly and obviously we have our fingers crossed because in Stuttgart we are going to need our fully fit squad.

"Looking at Germany at the World Cup, it showed the task that we do have ahead of us."

Will Jurgen Klinsmann's departure, despite the hopes of a nation that he would remain in charge, affect Germany?

"You hope so but everyone seems to see it as an easy transition because it was Klinsmann's number two who took over.

"We'll have to wait and see on that one," responded O'Shea, who had tipped Ireland's World Cup qualifying opponents France to do well.

"If you look at the players they had in their squad, I was very surprised they weren't quoted as one of the favourites. They seemed to get things right at the World Cup," he said.

Otherwise it has also been an interesting summer for the Manchester United star -there was the usual speculation about a move away from Old Trafford, with Newcastle United and Tottenham apparently suitors.

But there was also the intense distraction brought about by his love of hurling.

O'Shea knows quite a few of the Waterford senior squad and went to school with John Mullane, so he shared Mullane's devastation at being beaten by Cork in the Guinness All-Ireland semi-final under a fortnight ago.

"I get on well with John, and he was devastated afterwards," the 25-year-old said. "He said that the players had given their all but just came up short."

And it was Waterford manager Justin McCarthy who invited O'Shea to give a talk to the Decies' under-21s earlier in the summer - earlier, in fact, than Roy Keane's pep-talk to the Cork senior team.

"He asked me to go out and talk to them because he thinks they are a good enough team to be challenging for honours," said O'Shea.

"I just said to them to be" lieve in themselves and don't be looking for second best. …