Hero McClean an inspiration for Ireland Under-21 star Curtis
On a big night for Irish football, Ronan Curtis has his own ideas of how to eventually join the top table featuring the likes of James McClean.
The Derry City winger was well on his way to joining McClean as the club's latest export in August when Swedish outfit Ostersunds agreed a fee to sign him. Curtis made the trip over with the best of intentions only to discover the personal terms on offer didn't make the move viable.
He returns to Scandinavia for Ireland's latest European Championship qualifier against Norway with his ambitions unchanged.
Although he's under contract with City for next season, following the path beaten by McClean remains the priority.
At 21, Curtis has time on his side and likely being the only home-based player in Noel King's side means there will always be curious onlookers.
"Ostersunds got to know about me from playing in the Europa League for Derry, so playing in other countries does help," explained the winger (right) who may be redeployed up front tonight to replace the injured Reece Grego-Cox.
"I still want to go across the water at the right time. It doesn't have to be a UK club as I wouldn't mind playing around Europe. I think Ostersunds are still interested but I'll look at my options if they come up."
Once this evening's game in Drammen concludes, the Ireland squad will dash back to their hotel to watch the second half of the World Cup play-off against Denmark.
Given his career path, it is inevitable the eyes of Curtis will be trained on one particular Ireland player.
"James McClean is someone I look up," he admitted. "We play in the same position and being close friends with his brother Patrick means I get to chat with him sometimes.
"If I can push on and break into the senior Ireland team like James, it would be brilliant. Playing for Ireland's U-21s can only help me get there."
Norway's scoreless draw in Dublin last month was Ireland's only match not to take full points but the task tonight is difficult due to a number of factors.
Top seeds in the group and reigning European champions Germany struggled on the artificial surface at the Marianlyst Stadium in Drammen last month as they lost 3-1.
Conditions will be even colder tonight, with temperatures dipping below freezing, and Norway will have two senior internationals in their ranks.
Instead of affording Martin Odeggard and Morten Thorsby game-time in a friendly against Slovakia, senior boss Lars Lagerback has released the pair to the younger group.
The duo are currently teammates at Heerenveen after Real Madrid allowed 18-year-old Odeggard join on loan for the season. West Ham United midfielder Declan Rice is expected to be assigned the task of shackling Norway's talisman.
IRELAND (probable): K O'Hara (Manchester United); C Whelan (Liverpool), R Sweeney (Bristol Rovers), S Donnellan (Walsall), D Kane (Huddersfield Town); D Rice (West Ham), J Cullen (Bolton Wanderers); H Charsley (Everton), R Manning (QPR), C Ronan (Wolves); R Curtis (Derry City).
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