Robbie Brady: 'We've got some dangerous players and that's such a massive weapon to have'
Robbie Brady (24) plays football for the Republic of Ireland and Norwich City. He grew up in Baldoyle, Dublin, and moved to the Manchester United Youth Academy when he was 15. He spent three years at Old Trafford yet, despite impressing at under-age level, he failed to break into the first team. His fortunes changed when he went on loan to Hull City, where he would go on to make 124 appearances. He was sold to Norwich last year, but his first season at the club ended in disappointment earlier this month when they were relegated from the Premier League. He has won 20 international caps and scored four goals for Ireland. He lives with his partner Kellie and their two-year-old daughter Halle. Robbie and the Irish team will play their opening game of the UEFA European Championships on June 13.
Life is good, apart from the relegation the other week. I won't say I'm trying to shake it off, because it will never leave you, but I want to put it to the back of my mind now, and think only of Ireland.
The Euros feel very real now. When I'm with family members and friends it's all they can speak about. It's got this aura about it all of a sudden and the conversation is about how many Irish are going to France and how they're going to get there.
It's my first tournament and an amazing opportunity for me. When I was younger, playing in something like this was all I ever wanted to do. Now I'm getting a chance to do what the 70,000 to 100,000 people travelling to France all wish they could do. I feel very lucky.
The fans will play their part and cheer us on just like I did when I was younger. I was only a baby during the World Cup in 1994, but I remember all the other tournaments, especially 2002 [World Cup in Japan and Korea] - that was the one that really connected with me. I still love to watch back over those games.
In the past, I think we felt like total outsiders, but I have a really good feeling about how we might do this time. We've had great momentum in the run up to it. We have a solid base and people have been saying for years that we're not an easy team to play against, or to beat. Playing with this group of lads, I really feel we're tough opponents. We've got some dangerous players and that's such a massive weapon to have in tournament football.
Beating the world champions, Germany, shows we can beat anyone on our day. They're top of the food chain and to go and pick up two good results against them gave us great confidence. Leicester [shock winners of the Premier League] is a great motivation - it shows anything can happen. And look at Greece - they won the Euros when nobody had given them a chance. Football is coming to a level where there's not that much difference between the teams.
I used to play football all the time with my brothers growing up and we all thought we were brilliant! I knew I had a good chance of making it when I turned 14 or 15 when clubs started coming in and showing an interest in me.
I don't think there's anywhere better to learn your trade than at Man United. When I went over there it was all perfect - the facilities, the way you were treated, everything. But, to be honest, I was a bit naïve at first and very in awe of it all and it took me a while to find my feet.
Alex Ferguson was such a huge figure in football and he's someone I never thought I would meet. Then, when I was 14 or 15 and trying to make a decision about what club to go to, I got a phone call from him. It was so surreal - I was just a young lad and I thought it was a wind-up at first. That swayed my decision, because I really had enjoyed my time at Liverpool. Man United made me half the player I am today.
As you grow older you learn to be more professional. The last couple of years at United I really enjoyed, and then the opportunity came for me to get some game time in the league with Hull and I jumped at it.
There's always a fear that you might get injured especially as you're building up to a major tournament. But as soon as the whistle goes, you forget about that and you get completely caught up in the game, in the moment.
The security at the Euros has been on my mind a bit. But the people in charge of running the tournament, and the FAI from this side, have been giving us reassurances that everything is under control. Obviously, it's not ideal - it's incredible what's going on around the world right now - but please God everything will go ahead safely as planned.
My partner and little girl will be going to France too. That's a new chapter in my life. There are sleepless nights, but it's brilliant - I love it.
I don't think I'd be going into brain surgery, or anything like that, had I not been a footballer. It's hard to know what I would have done... My brother was at West Ham for a couple of years and ended up coming home. He's a barber now and that interests me - maybe I would have gone down that route.
Luck plays a huge part. I know a lot of players growing up and things didn't work out for them, some of them got injured and that was that.
Three, proud sponsor of the Irish football team, launched its latest campaign - and the hashtag #makehistory - with a TV ad featuring real football fans, sourced through supporters' clubs. To keep up to date with exclusive content and competition prizes, see Three.ie/football