Monday 25 September 2017

'It's a bit surreal to be honest' - Gleeson delighted with first Ireland goal ten years after his debut

1 June 2017; Stephen Gleeson of Republic of Ireland scores his side's first goal during the International Friendly match between Republic of Ireland and Mexico at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, USA. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile
1 June 2017; Stephen Gleeson of Republic of Ireland scores his side's first goal during the International Friendly match between Republic of Ireland and Mexico at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, USA. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Stephen Gleeson admitted it was 'surreal' to score his first goal for Ireland back at the scene of his unlikely international debut a decade ago.

The Birmingham midfielder came off the bench to grab a late consolation on just his fourth Irish appearance in a 3-1 defeat to Mexico.

It was the early hours of the morning back home when he scored, but there were still quite a few messages on his phone when he turned it on in the dressing room afterwards.

Gleeson was a teenager when he was drafted into Steve Staunton's makeshift squad for a tour of the US in 2007. After a pair of appearances against Ecuador and Bolivia - including a debut at the Giants Stadium against the former - he waited almost ten years ago before adding to his caps tally against Iceland on the March.

Martin O'Neill brought him to New Jersey and back to the Meadowlands site that used to house the Giants Stadium before it was demolished and replaced by the Metlife Stadium. And he marked the occasion with a special landmark, capitalising on a defensive error to finish well with his right foot. The 28-year-old was keen to play down his achievement in the aftermath of a defeat for the team.

"It was a proud night," he said, "I don't think the performance was great but on a personal level it's great to get a goal. It is a bit surreal to be honest; ten years ago I made my debut and then ten years later I score my first goal for the country which is a bit weird.

"But, as I say, it's all about building up to the game against Austria on Sunday week and we'll take the few positives that come out of the game and look back at the negatives."

Ireland tried a new 3-5-2 formation on the night but it was changing as Gleeson was introduced and he was operating on the right of a 4-5-1 when he struck.

"It's the same with every international friendly," he said, "A lot of changes are made and you just want to go on and try do something on the pitch and luckily it fell for me and I could score.

"I thought the boys that came on tried to get on the ball and tried to do what they were brought on to do. The manager said to go on and try and get a bit of passing going and a bit of shape to the team. It was a tough night (for the team) but personally it was a good one."

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