Coleman covets finals appearance
Published 05/09/2014 | 13:16
Seamus Coleman will embark upon the quest for a trip to the Euro 2016 finals desperate to make up for missing out on his country's last big adventure.
The 25-year-old Everton full-back is likely to start the Republic of Ireland's opening qualifier in Georgia on Sunday, new manager Martin O'Neill's first competitive game after 10 months at the helm.
Coleman has established himself as a regular in the team in the wake of a sobering Euro 2012 finals campaign which prompted then boss Giovanni Trapattoni to turn to youth, at least in part, in the search for a way forward.
The former Sligo Rovers defender did not travel to Poland and Ukraine after being named only on standby when Trapattoni selected his 23-man squad, and that, coupled with a summer sitting at home watching the World Cup on television, has made him hungrier than ever to earn his chance.
Coleman said: "I was watching the games and I really enjoyed it, but you just want to be part of it.
"Obviously I didn't play in the last European Championship, so I am definitely hungry to be part of that. That's what you want as an international player, to be on the biggest stage."
Coleman and midfielder James McCarthy in particular are at the vanguard of a new generation of players looking to plug the sizeable gaps left by the retirements of the likes of Richard Dunne and Damien Duff in recent years, although Shay Given's return to the international scene at 38 has provided an intriguing sub-plot to this week's preparations in Malahide.
Ireland warmed up for their potentially testing trip to Tbilisi with a low-key 2-0 victory over a limited Oman side at the Aviva Stadium on Wednesday evening in which O'Neill rested most of his big guns, Coleman included.
But the stakes will be very much higher on Sunday evening when the Republic attempt to launch their bid for qualification with victory over the Georgians just as they did six years ago, although in controversial circumstances.
That game, also Trapattoni's first competitive encounter, was played in Mainz, Germany rather than Tbilisi after the Football Association of Ireland expressed its misgivings over the prevailing political situation in Georgia at the time, a stance which still rankles with the former Soviet state.
Goals from Kevin Doyle and Glenn Whelan secured a 2-1 victory - indeed, the Irish have won all five of their encounters with Georgia to date, and an extension of that record would be most welcome this time around.
Coleman said: "It's been a long build-up - I think the manager has said the same thing since he came in. It's his first competitive game now, but we are all looking forward to it and we are well prepared.
"It's going to be a difficult game. We have seen a couple of clips and a couple of teams who went there, France and Spain haven't found it too easy, so it's going to be difficult.
"We will be set up well. As I said, we are all looking forward to it and hopefully we can come out of there with three points."
Given the recent history between the two nations, the reception at the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena is likely to be hostile, although Coleman insists that will not affect him or his team-mates.
He said: "On a personal level, I am not scared to go out there - I am looking forward to it.
"We know it is going to be difficult, but we have got a lot of good players, a lot of experienced players in our squad and it's time for us to kick on now."
Coleman is in line to collect his 24th senior cap in Georgia at a time when his stock is rising all the time having prospered under club boss Roberto Martinez.
However, as he has done throughout his career to date, he is keeping his feet firmly on the ground.
He said: "I did quite well last season - I'd like to think it was my breakthrough season even though I had had a couple of seasons before that.
"But I did quite well last year and have kicked it off this year again. Hopefully I can have a good strong season."