Meyler takes hard road

Sunderland ace aiming to impress after return from two cruciate knee injuries

Aidan Fitzmaurice

HE WENT through two painful knee injuries which would have killed off the career of so many other players.

But David Meyler, the newest recruit to the senior Ireland squad this week, says he never abandoned hope of achieving his current status of being a Premier League footballer who is in the Ireland squad.

Since those awful events in Poland in June, so much talk around the Irish camp has been about players who, for varying reasons, are no longer being considered for international duty.

With Stephen Ireland in a self-imposed state of cold storage for five years and now Darron Gibson making himself unavailable for the national team, we have two Irish-born Premier League regulars who don't want to play for the national team at the moment.

Meyler, who last night endured the squad initiation rite of performing a song for the group (Follow Me, by someone called Uncle Kracker), is still a newbie and is not keen to get dragged into the war of words between Gibson and the Irish team management.

"Darron's decision is down to him, what happened there is between him and the manager so it's their call. I am just thrilled to be here and if I get a chance to play in the game on Friday it will be one of the highlights of my career," Meyler told the Herald.

"I have come through the ranks, I played for the Irish U19s and the U21s and to get into the seniors is amazing.

"For any Irish footballer, getting the chance to represent your country is the biggest moment of your career.

"When I got the call last Friday morning to come in and join the squad it was amazing, I was thrilled to get the call-up and I know my family were so proud. It's hard to put into words. There was a great reaction from around the club, I got so many good luck messages from fans at Sunderland and all the players and staff were delighted for me, everyone has been so encouraging," added the 23-year-old.

"This week it's a long trip to Kazakhstan but when you are called upon to play for your country it's such a great honour that you don't worry about where you're going, you just want to pull on that green jersey and play."

It's been a long, long road to this stage of the Cork lad's career.

Early successes came and went smoothly: his debut for Cork City, his move to Roy Keane's Sunderland, Premier League football, Irish U21 debut.

But in the space of nine months between May 2010 and January 2011 the player went through two serious knee injuries, both times while on Premier League duty with Sunderland, which led to long periods of recovery.

Many players fail to recover from one cruciate injury let alone two of them, but Meyler did.

Doubt? He would not let it into his mind.

"Yes, I had two serious injuries, they were two massive parts of my career, but with mental toughness, needing to work hard and being willing to work hard, you can get there," the soft-spoken Corkman says with a steely determination.

"There are days when your legs are at you and it's not easy but I have come through it with a lot of hard work, and with the help of the medical staff at Sunderland, I feel fantastic now and it's just great to be playing.

"I never doubted that I would get back. Once the injury happened I just sat down with the physios at the club, and said 'What's the plan?'

"And that was it. I worked and worked because I wanted to get back to where I was, since I was a kid all I ever wanted to be was a footballer. I had a setback for a few months but even that didn't stop me. And to get the call up for this Ireland trip makes it all worthwhile.

He's something of a rarity in the Irish squad now, someone with a Cork accent. Since Liam Miller -- now exiled to Australia -- played against Montenegro over three years ago the Irish side has not had a Cork lad in the side but that could change.

"A few people have said that it's nice to have a Corkman in there in the Irish squad, but all I have done is get a place in the squad, I have to make sure I stay there now. It's up to me to make sure I stay in there, I have to keep working hard at my club and impress in training for the few days that I am with the Irish team," Meyler said.

"I suppose it's good for Cork sport that I am here. I was sorry to see the footballers lose to Donegal as a few of my friends play for the Cork team, same with Rob Heffernan, it's great to see Cork people do well in any sport.

"Now all we need is for Sonia O'Sullivan to come out of retirement for Brazil in 2014!

"I played up to minor level for Cork, and one of my favourite medals is a Munster championship medal from when we beat Kerry. But if I can get to play on Friday it would mean so much to me.

"It's a hard midfield to break into. If called upon I will work hard, I will enjoy the experience and give it everything I got."