Wednesday 26 June 2019

Browne ready to make his presence felt after frustration of false starts

Alan Browne. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Alan Browne. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Alan Browne speaks quietly, which is a slight surprise given the powerful on-pitch presence that has made him one of the Irish success stories of the season in the Championship.

There's plenty of people talking about the 24-year-old Preston midfielder from Mahon in Cork who always had a tunnel vision about his sporting preferences. GAA was just an excuse to get out of school. Football was always his passion.

When asked about the tattoo covering a good portion of his right leg, he is almost embarrassed to admit that the elaborate pattern was borne out of the necessity to cover up a Liverpool crest. That was probably a wise call.

It's not fanciful to think that Browne can graduate to Premier class because of his steady rate of improvement. He scored 12 Championship goals this year, an impressive return from a campaign in which Preston operated in mid-table and transfer speculation is likely.

He's a big character around Preston, but he fully concedes that Irish fans haven't seen the best of him yet.

In many respects, his profile under Martin O'Neill was similar to Conor Hourihane in that he was restricted to friendly appearances in experimental sides.

Browne has three caps to his name; a cameo appearance against Mexico in 2017 and then starts in 2018 games with Turkey and France when his contributions lasted for 68 and 59 minutes respectively.

Injury ruled Browne out of the first gathering of the Mick McCarthy era, as Hourihane grabbed the opportunity to take a central role.

This week's training camp in Portugal was about playing catch-up. With starting midfielders Hourihane and Glenn Whelan engaged in play-off duty, this is Browne's window. McCarthy has spoken in complimentary terms about him.

"I wouldn't say I froze, but it was probably just a bit of naivety," says Browne, reflecting on his Irish games to date. "You kind of want to take how you've been playing at club level into international level and you're eager.

"But you're not going to be able to play as well in that step-up, certainly with players that you don't play with week in, week out. Rather than making movements that you would at club level, you kind of have to adapt to the players around you."

It wasn't a case of the pressure getting to him then?

"I don't really let it get to me," he shrugs. "At the end of the day, it's a football game, you know?

"I take it as a good thing, to be honest, the pressure of international football. Obviously some people may associate it as a bad thing and it gets to some players, but for me personally anyway, I don't really see it as a negative.

"You should be happy to be out there representing your country and giving an extra few per cent because it's your country and everyone at home is watching you and their hopes are on you.

"Every game you play at international level is really tough and I soon found that out. The France one was a totally different ball game. You could obviously see why they went on to become world champions. Every one of them is playing at the highest level.

"We have a lot of Championship players and some League One players, so to be competing with that is a lot to ask."

Still, there's no doubt that if Browne brought his best club form to the international sphere, he could make an impact against the level of opponent that Ireland will face in their Euro 2020 campaign. Working out his best position is a bit of a challenge. Browne operates as a number ten with the club, but he knows that he could never be described as a playmaker.

"Usually, the ten is the creative one who gets up there and they are not going to do a lot of work for you but when they get the ball they will make something happen," he explains.

"In the Preston team, we are probably at our best without the ball so I think that position really suits me. I do think I have improved on the ball as well. I can make things happen up the pitch too."

With McCarthy speaking about pressing high and working on telling his midfielders to break into the box, then it's easy to see why Browne feels this management team might suit him.

This is his time to shine.

Irish Independent

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