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Meyler more mature now

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Irish midfielder David Meyler and Irish women's goal scoring maestro Stephanie Roche. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Irish midfielder David Meyler and Irish women's goal scoring maestro Stephanie Roche. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Irish midfielder David Meyler and Irish women's goal scoring maestro Stephanie Roche. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

AFTER years with little to show for a season's work other than a few squashed champagne corks to celebrate another flirtation with relegation, Irish players have raised their expectations in recent months.

John O'Shea captained Sunderland's failed League Cup attempt against Manchester City and Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy have been blazing a trail at Everton intent on Champions League football and a top-four finish.

The FA Cup has always been kind, even in these barren years, for Irish players are at the top clubs and this year, David Meyler, Shane Long, Stephen Quinn, Paul McShane and Robbie Brady will all be involved, whether active or simply being measured for the suit.

DEVELOP

Meyler's road to Wembley has been as hard as most and, after a season in the Premier League, he is beginning to feel that a corner has been turned. But not quite yet. When he has 150 games, then he'll believe he's a Premier League player.

"I've matured. I've grown up. I'm nearly six years older, I'm nearly six years in England. I've turned from a young man into an older, more mature man. I've had to study football, the game, and you've got to learn to develop as a person, as a player and how to improve all the time," he said.

"But you can always get better and that's what I'm trying to do all the time. You've got to improve on everything. Your right foot, your left foot, your heading. Everything in football can be improved.

"Everyone talks about Cristiano Ronaldo being one of the best footballers in the world and you speak to people who played for Man United and they rave about how much he's in the gym, how much he's practicing."

Two big knee injuries have shaped Meyler's career to date and while he's far too young to see his remaining time in football with the eyes of a veteran, grateful to be still kicking a ball, he does have a more rounded view.

"I wouldn't say I appreciate it more, I appreciated a lot when I was given the opportunity at such a young age. I suppose I'm grasping it more because I've had a free-flowing run of games," he said.

Meyler thinks about the game and about his own place in it and has formed a few opinions about transition from Ireland to England which won't go down too well with the recently propagated view that the League of Ireland is an ideal training ground for a career at the top across the pond.

"When I first went to England, Roy Keane put me in the Sunderland reserves. I had a coach – Neil Bailey – who had been a coach at Manchester Unietd for years," he said.

"The hardest thing for me was adapting from being coached from a young age through College Corinthians that whenever you passed the ball to a team-mate, you spoke to them. You told them to turn, gave them instructions, what to do, 'man on' or whatever.

"But in England I had to learn that nobody told you 'man on'. One of the hardest things I had to learn was how to open up the right way when I received the ball and which foot to receive it on. I probably did not learn that at an early age in Ireland."

Meyler accepts that his GAA background may have played a part in the two injuries he sustained. The dates are etched in his memory but for different reasons.

"May 2, 2010. Four years ago! January 5, 2011 was the second one. The first one – how could I forget? My first serious injury and I was called into the Irish squad two days before. The second was a bit different. My mother started her cancer treatment. That's why I remember," he said.

"I think from the background we come from, I think it is just in us. I come from a massive GAA background and the GAA is the GAA in how it's seen and how it's played."

EAGER

"I was just so eager. You deal with setbacks but I probably was too eager. I have learned and I don't tackle half as much as I used to anymore. Now, it's more about reading the game, learning the game and having a better understanding of it. If I'm watching a game, like Chelsea and Atletico, I study the players who play in my position."

Like father, like son? Maybe Meyler might one day follow in his father John's footsteps.

"No. My old fella has turned me away from that," he said, but he's already been dolling out sage advice. "When my dad was manager of Wexford – he will kill me for saying this – they were battered by Kilkenny in the Leinster final.

"I was home for that weekend and they played on the Saturday. All through Saturday night and Sunday morning he watched the game back and forth. I had to teach him. In England it is a lot different for us as we play week in, week out. We were beaten 3-0 by Arsenal which was disappointing and I had to move on from it.

"We have to focus on Fulham this Saturday whereas in the GAA he has six weeks to wait for the next game. It was breaking his heart and I had to teach him to move on. It took him a while but he is starting to move on from things now," Meyler said with a laugh.


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