I want to be a main face for Ireland in the future – Brady
A season of pain could end on a career highlight for Robbie Brady if Hull City can perform to their potential in Sunday's FA Cup semi- final with Sheffield United.
Brady was told last month that his injury-strewn campaign was over, but a swift response to rehab has altered the script and the Dubliner is now aiming to feature in his club's final league match of the season against Everton on May 11.
The real target is the tantalising prospect of featuring in the FA Cup decider a week later, provided his pals do the business against the League One underdogs this weekend. It is a possibility that has delivered welcome motivation for his long days in the gym.
"There's an outside chance I could be involved," enthuses the 22-year-old, who intends to start running on grass next week.
"This is giving me focus, some sort of hope for the end of season to keep going. Apparently, I am a week or two ahead of schedule so I'm looking forward to being back before the end of the season; it's something to aim for anyway."
It has been a complicated year for the talented product of St Kevin's Boys. When asked for the chronology of his injury travails on a promotional visit to Dublin yesterday, he delivered a 450-word response, without interruption, that ran through the entire saga.
In short, he had pain in his groin dating back to Ireland's summer gathering last year.
At the start of this campaign, his first as a Premier League player, he felt pains around his lower abdomen, which led to a double hernia operation. When he returned promptly and still suffered discomfort, it emerged that he had groin issues which he persevered with, receiving injections along the way, before it became apparent that further surgery was required.
"Maybe I came back a small bit soon," he admits. "But that was just me being eager; I don't think there was anyone going to stop me coming back."
The bottom line is that he has started just 10 Premier League matches, a serious source of frustration considering he flew out of the blocks with three goals before the end of the September, demonstrating to his former employers at Manchester United that he could make an impact at this level.
"My first season was almost a write-off," he concedes. "But hopefully I'll get the last couple of games in and have some of effect on the end. Hopefully I'll be involved in the final if he (Steve Bruce) wants to put me in."
He cautions, however, that his colleagues have to overcome a banana skin in the shape of a Sheffield United side that has improved under Nigel Clough.
Brady knows too well that nothing can be taken for granted in this business. His own international career is an example.
While Ireland's record goalscorer at U-21 level is still a young man, he confesses to disappointment at his time in the green jersey. In many ways, it is summed up by the trip to Stockholm in March 2013 when he was told by Giovanni Trapattoni that he was in the starting XI only for the Italian to change his mind on the eve of the match and bring in the experience of Jon Walters instead after the loss of Glenn Whelan left the overall team short of experience.
Trust was an issue; Trapattoni rated Brady, but doubted his age and defensive aptitude. Added to injury setbacks, it is little surprise that he describes his experience thus far as 'stop start.'
"I was dying for that game," he recalled. "I felt I could have made an impact. I had the bib on in training all week so I was getting myself ready.
"The manager named the team with me in it. He came into me the night before, and at first I thought I was still playing (with what he said), but then he started talking about packing the midfield and mentioned Jon Walters' name – I think he might have seen me as more of a flair player.
"I was disappointed and had a word with Robbie (Keane) and he went to speak with him and came back and said that he was going with Jonny on the wing. I was obviously disappointed. I played left wing-back most of the season so I thought my defensive game was quite good. But that's the manager's decision, I'm not angry about not playing. I got along with him (Trap) quite well but didn't play as much as I would have liked."
Looking ahead, he declares openly that he has no interest being a bit-part player and was heartened by a phonecall from Martin O'Neill a few weeks back to check on his well-being.
Brady was sidelined for the new regime's opening double-header in November but came over to introduce himself and is happy to be kept in the loop.
"When I do get in, I'm looking to make an impression rather than being a face that's in and out all the time," he asserts. "I want to be a main face."
The medics at Hull responded positively when he dropped Ireland's post-season plans into discussion. "They think it's the perfect opportunity to get some minutes into me," he says.
All going to plan, he'll already have a bit of match practice from Wembley before his next round of national service.
* Robbie Brady was speaking at the launch of the Doritos Penalty Shootout competition which gives friends from Ireland and the UK a chance to take a penalty against England 'keeper Joe Hart. See doritos.co.uk for details