Gibson raring to go for Ireland
Published 02/09/2014 | 11:12
Darron Gibson admits it is a case of "now or never" as he attempts to establish himself as a regular in the Republic of Ireland team.
The 26-year-old Everton midfielder will pull on the green shirt for Wednesday night's friendly against Oman at the Aviva Stadium 10 months after his last appearance there ended in agony as he suffered the cruciate ligament injury which has sidelined him for much of the intervening period.
Injuries and Gibson's disenchantment with former manager Giovanni Trapattoni have limited the senior international career to 21 caps, and he knows his latest opportunity under current boss Martin O'Neill is one he cannot afford to pass up.
He said: "Being out for 10 months last season gave me a lot of time to think about things, and I think this is now or never, really, to be honest with you, so I am looking forward to the task ahead.
"It just made me realise that I'm not getting any younger. I need to start playing games and I need to start doing well for myself. It's a big opportunity for me."
Gibson's misfortune struck in October last year when he collapsed in agony during the first half of Ireland's 3-1 World Cup qualifier victory over Kazakhstan and was carried from the field on a stretcher.
Scans quickly confirmed damage to his anterior cruciate ligament, condemning him to surgery and a lengthy period of rehabilitation.
The former Manchester United midfielder had only just returned to the Republic fold having been recalled by caretaker manager Noel King following Trapattoni's exit.
Gibson travelled to the Euro 2012 finals, but did not taste a single minute of action in Poland and Ukraine, and his response was to reluctantly make himself unavailable to his country.
As a result, he is eager to make up for lost time with the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign due to get under way in Georgia on Sunday.
Gibson said: "It was the second game back, wasn't it? It was tough for me, I was devastated when I did it. But the staff and players at Everton helped me through it.
"Being out for 10 months is tough. The hardest thing was going every week to Goodison [Park] and watching the lads knowing I should have been playing, and there was not really much I could do about it.
"But the physios are good there and the staff are good, and they helped me through it.
"It is very hard. You want to be playing and training every day. It takes a bit of getting used to, but after a couple of months, I got round the idea that it was a long-term injury and I just got my head down and focussed on getting through it, and thankfully I've come out the other end."
O'Neill, who replaced Trapattoni in November last year, will have Gibson at his disposal for the first time on Wednesday evening, and he is looking forward to having another potential key player in his squad.
The 62-year-old said: "He's obviously a very, very decent footballer. He hasn't played that much, but he's a very, very talented player. He looks comfortable, he looks in really decent shape. I am actually looking forward to seeing him play.
"Whether he thinks half of a game or something like that is enough for him, I don't know - most players always feel they are properly fit and fine. These are the sort of decisions that the two of us will consider, maybe not just necessarily for this game, but for the tournament ahead.
"Ideally, he would like to break in and get into Everton's side - I think he is pretty well close to that - and that would be good, that would be great. But he is just coming back from long-term injury, so I think it's just a matter of taking a little bit of time."
Gibson, who has spent the last few days working with boyhood hero Roy Keane in Malahide, could be forgiven for dreading a return to the spot on the Aviva pitch where injury struck, but he insists it will not be on his mind at all.
He said: "I have thought about it, to be honest with you, but no, I don't think there's any point. I am past the injury and my knee feels good, so I will not be thinking about it when I get on to the pitch.
"I know exactly where it is, but I will not be thinking about it."