Teammates since childhood, Jeff Hendrick and Robbie Brady are set to spearhead Ireland's Euros assault
Published 15/06/2016 | 17:03
Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick still can't believe that the journey, which started for them as wide-eyed young boys with Dublin nursery St Kevin's Boys, has led them to play on the big stage of Euro 2016 at the Stade de France.
Both aged 24 and both from the northside of Dublin, Brady and Hendrick were the youngest players in an Ireland XI which started against Sweden on Monday with an average age of 28.8 years.
But the path to Euro 2016 began when they hooked up at St Kevin's Boys.
"It's been an incredible, long, long road, we have been lucky enough to do it together," says Baldoyle lad Brady of his pal.
"I said to Jeff how big a deal it would be to get here and play together on the big stage and it was a great moment for both of us.
"We were six or seven years old when we first met, at St Kevin's Boys back home in Dublin.
Jeff came in, and we went on from there, we played in every team possible at international level and all the way up to the seniors. It's not every day that something like this happens, it's great to play on a big stage."
The duo have usually roomed together on international duty, but the single room system used by the team here in France means they're now on their own.
"Yeah, we have roomed together every trip, but we're in separate rooms this trip," says Hendrick. "I'm used to being in the room with him and having a chat, we grew up close to each other, we know at lot of the same people."
But the Ireland pair know they will be tested by the Belgians on Saturday. Asked if injury scares over players like Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne leave them exposed, Hendrick said: "I don't think so, you look at the squad they have, they have so many good players who can come in and out of the side, they have other players who can come in and do a good job".
Brady also expects a challenge in Bordeaux from a Belgian side wounded by defeat to Italy.
"We know they are a top class team, they will be coming in prepared, they are coming in to win as are we," says the Norwich City man. "I'm not sure what they are feeling, if there will be backlash from the defeat, I don't know what way they will come out, I am sure they want to pick up some sort of result from us."