| 10°C Dublin

David McGoldrick: I felt accepted and got a high five off Robbie Keane after initiation song

Close

David McGoldrick is looking forward to making his debut for Ireland against the USA. Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

David McGoldrick is looking forward to making his debut for Ireland against the USA. Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

David McGoldrick is looking forward to making his debut for Ireland against the USA. Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

On Thursday night in Glasgow, David McGoldrick passed his first rite of initiation to life within an Irish dressing-room.

He sang.

Daryl Murphy warned him it was coming, so his preparation had been fine-tuned by the time the hush descended. On the team flight to Scotland, he'd familiarized himself with the lyrics to R Kelly's 'I Believe I can Fly'.

Voice or no voice, there are certain things the modern footballer must do now and this one is a staple. Presenting yourself before the most pitiless tribunal seen since the Salem witch trials.

It was the calm before what would prove a bruising night for all in the east-end of Glasgow.

"I'd been waiting for it, because I was told the first night I'd have to do it" he says smiling now. "To be fair, it's common at most clubs. It can be a bit cringing to watch sometimes, but I tell you it's nerve-wracking when you're doing it.

"I think it went down quite well though. The boys were clapping and you feel accepted when you do it. I got high fives from Robbie Keane anyway, saying 'Well done!'."

Tonight, McGoldrick hopes to ratchet that acceptance to another level.

He makes his international debut at the age of 26, a statistic his Ipswich Town club-mate, Stephen Hunt, recently acknowledged might make some people suspicious. A few years back, Hunt - then at Reading - had an on-pitch confrontation with McGoldrick - then at Southampton - and, out of it, drew his own unflattering conclusions

The Waterford man recently referred to "the gold tooth and air of toughness" of a player who has spent much of his career working the graveyard shift of pressured loan spells at clubs like Notts County, Bournemouth and Port Vale.

Until just over two years ago, McGoldrick's career stats spoke of a journeyman striker, struggling to find a settled home. But his 2012 switch to Coventry then brought seventeen goals, the second highest tally in League One, English football's third tier.

That form triggered a move to Ipswich in January of last year, another loan at first, where his form was good enough to prompt last August's £5 million bid from new Premier League arrivals, Leicester City. Ipswich rejected the offer, pricing McGoldrick at £8 million. Negotiations went no further.

Close

Republic of Ireland's David McGoldrick, James McClean, left, and and Shane Long, right, during squad training ahead of their UEFA EURO 2016 Championship Qualifer, Group D, match against Scotland on Friday (David Maher / SPORTSFILE)

Republic of Ireland's David McGoldrick, James McClean, left, and and Shane Long, right, during squad training ahead of their UEFA EURO 2016 Championship Qualifer, Group D, match against Scotland on Friday (David Maher / SPORTSFILE)

SPORTSFILE

Republic of Ireland's David McGoldrick, James McClean, left, and and Shane Long, right, during squad training ahead of their UEFA EURO 2016 Championship Qualifer, Group D, match against Scotland on Friday (David Maher / SPORTSFILE)

Hunt believes now that Ipswich's obstinacy was wise.

Recently he wrote in his Sunday Independent column about "a class act" footballer who "doesn't think as strikers do", a player - he said - "who can keep possession all day and shoot with either foot". Tonight, the Dublin public gets to make an assessment for themselves and McGoldrick is determined not to disappoint.

His journey to this moment has been unorthodox and, occasionally, trying. A Nottingham boy, he was adopted as a baby and only discovered the Irish connection (his maternal grandfather was Irish), years later, from a meeting with his birth mother. McGoldrick assumed that his adopted status rendered that connection irrelevant as far as international football was concerned.

But when Mick McCarthy received a call from Gordon Strachan at the end of last season, enquiring about McGoldrick's nationality, everything suddenly changed.

Yesterday, he reflected "When Mick got that call, I told him that I'd no Scottish roots but that I knew I had some Irish. As soon as I told him that, it seemed to set the ball rolling.

"From the very start, he was pulling me in to his office every so often, asking me for an update. He kept telling me 'Get it over the line, you'll love the Irish set-up and it'll be a great experience for you.' He's always talking about how much he loved his time with Ireland and I've no doubt the first person I'll speak to when I get back to the club after this will be Mick, asking how I got on."

"I mean I took it as a big compliment that Gordon Strachan was asking about me, but playing for Scotland never entered my head."

Tracking down the necessary paperwork proved a challenge and McGoldrick is particularly indebted to the work put into that process by FAI employee, Mary O'Brien.

"It's been very difficult" he says now. "It was going on for a long time. Mary was chasing everything down, all the paperwork I'd been sending over with my family history. Even digging up stuff I didn't know about. If I was left to do it on my own, I don't think I'd have been able to get to the bottom of it.

"It was a huge relief when the passport came through because, at different points, I was thinking it wasn't going to happen."

He describes as "surreal" the Saturday evening phone-call he then took from Martin O'Neill, confirming his inclusion in the Irish squad for these games against Scotland and the US.

"He makes you feel really welcome" McGoldrick says of the Irish manager. "Me being a Nottingham boy, he was telling me about when he used play with Forest. And I know that he's been to quite a few of my games. So, for him to bring me here now, must mean he likes me in some shape or form."

O'Neill, presumably, has been particularly impressed by the venomous combination McGoldrick has been forging at Ipswich with Waterford-man, Murphy, his room-mate this week.

The pair struck for 18 goals in 22 appearances together before McGoldrick was struck down with a partial medial ligament tear in February.

After what felt a small lifetime chasing his tail as a professional, McGoldrick credits Ipswich boss, McCarthy, with transforming his outlook as a professional. In five years on the books of Southampton, he never quite established himself as a regular first-teamer and a 2009 move to Forest served only to shatter his confidence.

"I think, as a forward, the most important thing is playing every week" says McGoldrick. "When I was at Forest, I was playing one game, then missing three. Maybe getting a game away from home, up front on my own. It was hard work. I'm not making excuses.

"Then all the loan moves, you've got to get your bearings very quickly. You're on trial straight away.

"But it feels like the last couple of years is really the start of my career. Confidence is everything for a striker. If you're not confident, you tend to be just shooting for the sake of it. But with confidence, you're always looking for the net. You tend to do things more naturally.

"The first minute I walked in at Ipswich, Mick said to me that I would be the main man. For him to say that, I just thought 'Wow, this guy's got a lot of faith in me!' From that moment, I don't think he's ever dropped me.

"And I'm as confident now as I've ever been."

McGoldrick admits that missing out on a move to the Premier League did momentarily unsettle him last August.

"I think the bid went in on the Wednesday before the deadline Monday and it kind of all finished that Sunday" he remembers. "So I knew on deadline day, it wasn't going to happen. That Monday and Tuesday, if I'm honest, my head still wasn't around it. I was still a bit upset.

"But on the Wednesday I got back to training, Mick got me in his office and said 'Look, it's gone now, you're going to have to get your head down. It is what it is.' And I'm the kind of person who can do that. Once it's gone, it's gone.

"The next game was on the Saturday and I scored. That was important because I wanted to go out there and show it wasn't playing on my mind."

"I've never played in the Premier League, so it would have been great. But we're fourth in the Championship with Ipswich at the moment, so who knows?"

That East Anglian dressing-room is populated by a strong Irish contingent now, not just McCarthy, Murphy and Hunt, but Conor Sammon and Jay Tabb too. McGoldrick says, to a man, they had "only good things" to say about his pursuit of an Irish jersey.

Glasgow was a sobering experience last Friday, McGoldrick admitting to feelings of "devastation" after in the Irish dressing-room.

His hopes tonight?

"Martin has told me to just be myself, that I'm here for a reason and not to be intimidated. It means a lot to me, because I've been working hard to get it over the line. It's going to be a real honour."

Irish Independent