‘Injuries knock your confidence but I never lost that belief’ – Callum O’Dowda’s debt to Ireland boss Kenny

Ireland's Callum O’Dowda in action against Roberts Savalnieks and Janis Ikaunieks of Latvia during their international friendly at the Aviva Stadium last night. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Aidan Fitzmaurice

Callum O’Dowda says he was determined to repay the faith shown in him by Ireland boss Stephen Kenny as the Cardiff City man ended his long wait for a first international goal.

Kenny had talked up the qualities of O’Dowda in the build-up to the first game of the March double header and O’Dowda, selected at left wing-back ahead of the likes of Robbie Brady, Ryan Manning (who did not even make the squad) and James McClean, delivered a solid display and a goal in the 3-2 win.

"Obviously I speak to him a lot. It’s just more showing more a positive influence, more about going forward and having a positive effect on the game,” says O’Dowda of Kenny.

“That’s what he wanted me to do, not to be safe, dribble up the pitch, use my qualities that I have. I’m happy that he’s shown the faith in me over the years.

“I am enjoying the role, I like to learn a lot about the role and I am delighted to play today and get a goal. A big mention for me has to go to the gaffer, to put that faith in me. I am really happy.”

Having made his debut just before the Euro 2016 finals, it’s been a tough road at times for O’Dowda due to injury.

“It has been a rollercoaster considering where I started with Martin O'Neill. I'd say towards the latter of his management here, I was playing a lot but back-to-back hamstring injuries, ankle surgery, so it has been hard to gain momentum.

“I have been quite unlucky with injuries and form as well but I feel right now that I should be hitting the heights of my ability. I am 27-years-old.

"It does knock your confidence but I never lost that belief in myself. Even when I was injured, credit to Stephen Kenny he still called me to ask how I was getting on with my rehab. Especially my hamstring injuries. Full credit to him.

"I never lost hope. It did affect me at club level, I've played almost 300 games but I feel I should have more. I am delighted I am on 26 now for Ireland, obviously the more caps the better.

"I guess it is just building on it. The club is really important as well but for me the international stage is the biggest thing in my eyes just to be a part of it all and contributing. It has been a journey,” added the Cardiff player who admits that his return of goals is not good enough, for club or country.

"It was my second header this season, Reading and last night. That’s what the manager wanted.

"Matt Doherty set him (Will Smallbone) up, it’s a wing-back to wing-back, getting in the box and choosing the right time to do it and having cover and balance behind the ball. That’s what he brought me in for, to be a threat and get on the end of things.”