WOLVES star Stephen Ward says he can't understand why he's been given the cold shoulder by Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni despite being a Premier League regular with Mick McCarthy's side this season.
Only four Irish players have made more appearances for their Premier League clubs in England this season, so former Bohemians man Ward just wants Trapattoni to give him a chance in the squad to prove that if he's good enough to score the winner at Anfield then he's good enough to play for his country.
Ireland fielded a weakened team for Tuesday's friendly at home to Uruguay as no less than 12 players from the original 29-man squad were unavailable against the Uruguayans, and Trap had only five outfield players on the bench for the game.
But there was still no place with Ireland for Ward, who has been in superb form for Wolves in the Premier League for two seasons now, mainly at left back, though he has played up front as an emergency striker -- when he scored the only goal in a 1-0 win away to Liverpool -- and started in central midfield against Tottenham three weeks ago.
He's been excluded by Trap since he was forced to miss two RDS friendlies last May -- and he wants to know why.
"I have had no word at all from the Ireland management and I just wonder if I have done something wrong. I just can't understand why I don't get a look-in," Ward told the Herald today.
"I have nothing but respect for Trapattoni as he's a top-class manager but since I met him that one time last summer, when I came over to meet him and be assessed before the Algeria and Paraguay games in Dublin, it's never been explained to me why I'm being overlooked and not given an opportunity.
"All I want is a chance. I have played for my country at U19, U21 and B levels and nothing would mean more to me than to win a senior cap, but I just want that opportunity.
"I just want to know what I'm doing so wrong that I can't get into a 29-man squad for a friendly.
"All I want is a chance in the squad. If I come in and the manager sees that I'm not up to scratch, or if he just doesn't fancy me, then fair enough. But I haven't been given that chance.
"There have been times when players in my position have been missing but I haven't even been on standby."
Ward, who left Bohs for Wolves in 2007, was a regular with Ireland at underage level and earned praise for his commitment in captaining the U21 team as an overage player in an end-of-season tournament in Malaysia in 2008, soon after Trapattoni had taken over the first team.
But senior international caps have passed him by. He was in line to play for the side in the USA tour of 2007 under former boss Steve Staunton, but injury forced him to cry off, and then Trap called him into the initial 23-man squad for friendlies against Algeria and Paraguay last summer, but again he had to be ruled out.
"I'd had an injury all season and I needed to get it sorted as I'd been playing at about 60 percent of my fitness," Ward said.
"My club explained to Trapattoni that I needed an operation but he asked me to come over and meet him anyway, which I did and I was happy to do.
"But since then I haven't heard a word from the FAI and it is hard to take at times.
"I had no choice but to get the operation at the time, the club said I needed the op then to be ready for pre-season and I came over to tell Mr Trapattoni that.
"I did all I could, I came over to Dublin to meet him to show my commitment, but no matter what happened after that I never made the squad."
Ward didn't comment publicly at the time but those close to the Dubliner were known to be upset when he failed to make it into an experimental 29-man squad for a friendly against Norway in November. There was again confusion for the Wales game last month when Ward's team-mate Kevin Foley was named in the squad as a defender, even though he had been out injured for some time and had to pull out of the panel.
"When we were in the Championship with Wolves and doing well I was asked a lot about the Ireland squad and I said all along that I'd probably have to get into the Premier League for that to happen.
"But we won promotion, I've played around 50 games in the Premier League, but haven't been given a chance with the national team.
"I always hoped that getting into the Premiership would help me but it hasn't happened," he added.
"I am enjoying the season as I have played a lot of games. I've been asked to play in different positions, which is maybe to my detriment in terms of nailing down the left-back slot.
"I played a few games up front and I was in central midfield the other week against Spurs.
"I want to start every game but I have started over 20 matches and been involved in almost every other game," he added.