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Gleeson rolls back the years with squad call


Stephen Gleeson. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

Stephen Gleeson. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

Stephen Gleeson. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

The fab four of Matt Doherty, Eunan O'Kane, Alan Judge and Jonny Hayes hope that their time in Dublin over the next week ends up with a senior cap in their hands for the first time in their careers.

Stephen Gleeson is also one of the new boys, of sorts, in Martin O'Neill's squad but in terms of caps he has been there and done that. Bertie Ahern was Taoiseach, George W Bush was in the White House and Donald Trump was just a very annoying TV presenter when Gleeson came into the Ireland squad under Steve Staunton, in 2007.

Capped twice in a tour of the USA that summer Gleeson, now 27, dropped off the radar and down the divisions but some superb form with Birmingham City this season has Ireland on his mind again.

Midfield is a crowded area this week - even after the withdrawals of Harry Arter and Jeff Hendrick, Martin O'Neill has 13 midfielders to call on so Gleeson has some pretty stiff competition.

He's experienced enough to know that a push for the Euro 2016 will be difficult and a regular place in the squad for the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign, which starts in September, is more realistic.

"I know this summer is a long shot for me, but just to come into the squad now is great, to get my face back into the squad, is great," says Gleeson.

"For me realistically, I'm probably looking after this tournament to get back involved more regularly. It's great to be in and training with these players. I'm not overawed by it and I'm taking it all in this time. It's just a pleasure to be back on board."

He's certainly a different player to the fringe Wolves man who was called up by Staunton to an injury-hit squad for that USA tour in June 2007, where players like Gleeson, Joe O Cearuil, Joe Gamble and the legendary Joey Lapira all got capped.

"I don't think I did my best out there. I was a bit overawed: the senior team, 18 years of age, with all these names around me, I was overawed," he admits.

"I'm coming back into the squad now and I'm more mature, I'm more confident in my own ability. I'd say it was great to go but I'd do it differently if I had this head on me now.

"Now, to see the quality of the players and not be overawed by it, just to feel comfortable in the environment, it gives you more confidence. Just being out there and training with the players I'm not thinking, 'No, I don't deserve to be here', thinking you belong as well, it's great to be back in. Hopefully over the next week to 10 days it can just get better and better," added Gleeson, pleased at his second coming.

"I always had a bit of faith in my own ability. I needed to make that step up to the Championship. Even though last year was a tough year, the (Birmingham) manager came in and gave me that belief.

"I played over 40 games last year and then this year I've done the same. I knew if I could do my stuff in the Championship it would give me a good chance to get back on board. Thankfully it has come around again."