Saturday 20 January 2018

Sammon aims to scale heights against Spain

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

CONOR SAMMON watched Euro 2012 in the Italian town of Sorrento hoping that maybe one day he would get the opportunity to represent his country.

The Derby County striker knows that it came as a surprise to many in the Irish football community when he did, but he is refusing to let this opportunity pass.

Giovanni Trapattoni has taken a shine to the 26-year-old, who was working as a bank official just six years ago, merging that with his commitments to UCD.

Now, he's enjoying his own fortune, with a positive contribution from the bench in the wins over the Faroe Islands and Georgia opening the door for lengthier involvement against world champions Spain at Yankee Stadium tonight.

It's the stuff of dreams. "The journey I've come on has been incredible," he admits.

After making his debut against Poland in February, Sammon was thrust into the spotlight for the March World Cup qualifier with Austria and while he has received mixed reviews, the Dubliner feels that he can offer a different dimension to this Irish side.

Trapattoni has pointed out that his industry can help others and the player understands that point of view.

"I think I bring physical strength to the team, I can rustle defenders up and create space for other players," he says. "I also feel that I have pace that allows me to give teams problems in behind and stretch games as well."

Indeed, he has a pair of assists to his name from this gathering, with Robbie Keane getting on the end of two clever passes to score against Georgia and the Faroes. They will link up again tonight.

"It's been amazing to be playing with and training alongside a player like Robbie, with the career he has had," continues the former Derry City, Kilmarnock and Wigan front man.

"In the last few games, the goals he has scored shows that he is always in the right place at the right time. He really comes alive in the box and makes it look easy. But when you play football you realise that it is not.

"To get yourself into those positions is not just luck. For me, to get the chance to rub shoulders with a player like that, who has got so much experience, is only going to benefit me in the long run."

In his brief stint at Wigan, which primarily involved cameo appearances off the bench, Sammon did get the opportunity to encounter some elite defenders, but he would have preferred longer outings to demonstrate his capabilities. He only scored once in the top flight, albeit a crucial goal against West Ham. His next target is a first in the green jersey.

"My goal is to score for my country, which is always my ambition going on to the pitch. I'm keen to go out there and really make it difficult for them and play to our strengths. I've been pleased that I have been able to make an impact and create a few goals in the games. So I'm looking to go that one step further and get one myself."

Naturally, his friends and family are thrilled by his ascension, although he says that his Scottish fiancee Caroline had conflicting views about this particular trip. She is a schoolteacher and their window for holiday time together is limited.

"She was disappointed," he concedes, "but then she was delighted for me to get the chance."

With Sammon sure to be involved in the crucial World Cup qualifiers come the autumn, he'll be spending more time away from home with an eye on a major jaunt to Brazil next summer. Achieving that would take the fairytale story to a new level.

Irish Independent

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