St Ledger willing to make sacrifices to support Ireland's Euro cause

Aidan Fitzmaurice

EVEN when he was on holiday, Sean St Ledger wasn't able to switch off and escape the clutches of football.

While a batch of footballers celebrated the end of the Championship season three weeks ago by heading to the beaches and sun spots, St Ledger ended up in a busy, bustling Madrid, a long way away from a beach and unable to get away from football as he found himself joining in the celebrations of Atletico Madrid supporters.

"I had a few days in Madrid, when the season with Leicester ended, a cultured break you could say," St Ledger smiles.

"It was a good time to be there as Atletico Madrid had just won the Europa League and the whole city was buzzing.

"Football is my living but it's a huge part of my life as well so I love watching games even when I'm not involved.

"Any tournament that's been on in the past I watched it religiously, so it's a dream come true to be part of it now as a player, it feels so real.

"I watched all these tournaments as a little boy and I never imagined I'd be a part of it, but here I am.

"The first football tournament I can really remember was 1990, but only a small bit as I think I was only five years old when that was on. USA '94 is the one I really remember. Ireland being there was great as I was an Ireland fan," added the defender, already on the landmark of 25 caps for his country, who has not forgotten the Co Carlow roots which led to his eligibility for Ireland.

"I haven't been back to Carlow for a while, it's been tough to get there with the football schedule, but all my relatives have been in touch.

"I had Daniel St Ledger, who is in the Carlow squad, onto me the other day, so that's great to see that people down in Carlow are behind me," he says.

The defender needed support at times last season, as St Ledger had some tough times at Leicester City, spending much of the season on the bench.

Heads are down at Leicester after a poor season which saw the big-spending Foxes limp out of contention for promotion and while St Ledger has two years left on his contract there, there could be big changes over the summer.

"Yeah, I have two years left at Leicester so we'll see what the future holds.

"I want to play more regularly but my focus now is on what happens with Ireland," he says.

"I feel refreshed and fit. I didn't play too much towards the end of the season but my form and my fitness is good.

"I haven't played as much as I wanted, but when I did play I think my form was always good.

"The season was disappointing from the club's point of view as well as my own, but now I am just excited about the finals and I'm looking ahead to this tournament."

Part of the baggage for a long stay in camp like this is boredom, with players confined to a hotel for most of the 11 days they'll spend in Dublin before heading out to Italy - and another hotel, another training ground - on Sunday after the Bosnia game.

"Boredom can be a factor and it's tough being away for so long, but we're lucky to be here," says the former Preston and Peterborough man.

"We are lucky to have this profession that we have.

"If someone said to me that you'd have to be bored for a few hours a day but get to play in a European Championships, I'd have bitten their hand off.

"I am lucky to be in the position I am in. I am an ambassador for Friends In Ireland, which is a huge honour for me, so I am in a great and privileged position."