Irish dream will make Richie Towell leave home again
Richie Towell will never give up on his dream of playing for Ireland, but the Dundalk star knows that a move across the water is essential if it's going to become a realistic proposition.
Towell, 23, was delighted when his friend Adam Rooney, the Aberdeen striker, was called into Martin O'Neill's squad for the first time earlier this week.
The attacking midfielder had opportunities to move across the water over the winter but a disappointing trial experience at Cardiff planted a seed of doubt and he wants to be careful about his next move as opposed to just jumping at the first available offer.
Towell has brought his League of Ireland performances to a new level this season, scoring ten goals to move to the top of the scoring charts, including seven from five outings in April which secured the SWAI/SSE Airtricity Player of the Month award.
And he has told his representatives to shield him from any talk about potential suitors, especially if they are sending scouts to watch him after confessing that it proved a distraction last year.
"I have to said to them that I don't want to know anything until it's concrete," says Towell, who has an understanding in place with Dundalk that they won't stand in his way if an appropriate offer is received from an interested party.
"I've not been thinking about it this year and it's made me more relaxed going on the pitch. Last year I was probably thinking 'who is watching?' and who could I impress. You are not 100pc focused on the game if you're wondering who is in the stand.
"It's only after games that I realise now. I didn't know that Martin O'Neill was at the Shamrock Rovers game."
The former Celtic trainee, who turned his career around by embarking on a new fitness regime when he came back to Ireland, is conscious that he might have to be wearing different colours to really catch O'Neill's eye.
"It seems like it, doesn't it?" he replied. "There are a number of players in the international side that used to play in the league but it was only when they went to England that the call up came.
"I had the honour of playing from U-15 to U-21 level and it was great privilege for me and the family and the next step would obviously be full senior international," he continued.
"It's something I dreamed of as a little boy and I'm always ambitious I could go and do that.
"I spoke to Adam Rooney yesterday and he's delighted that he was called up. It would be great to see someone in our league get the call, it would raise the profile but obviously the manager has a tough decision as there's a lot of good players in England playing at a very high standard."
High job satisfaction in Louth and scarring experiences in the past have inspired his belief that he must be absolutely sure about relocation.
"I had a few offers from Scotland and England (over the winter) but they weren't right for me and I always said I wasn't going away just to say I played in England or Scotland," he explained. "This is a good league over here and I'm happy to be playing here for Dundalk.
"You need to think of the pros and the cons. It would be about the right move at the right time if it does come around."
Towell has plenty of targets in mind on home soil. The league champions hold a four-point lead over Cork at the top with a game in hand after starting their defence with ten wins and two draws, a record which he feels is testament to the desire in the dressing room. Ahead of tonight's Oriel Park meeting with Derry City, he says the intensity of this week's training sessions has been the hardest since he joined the club in 2013. "I think we have a stronger squad now than last year," he enthuses.
He can't wait to enter the Champions League qualifiers with this group and their blemish-free beginning to the season has prompted discussions about going unbeaten for the duration.
Premature? "It's very ambitious," he smiles. "It's hard to say we're going to go unbeaten but if there's a team capable of it, then it's definitely us."