Alan Browne keen to press his case under new Republic regime
Preston player scored 12 goals from midfield for the Championship outfit this season
Alan Browne at the Republic of Ireland training camp at Quinto do Lago, Faro, Portugal. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
One of the most consistent Irish performers in the English League Championship for the last three years has been anything but a familiar face at international level. The Preston North End midfielder is disappointed to have earned only three caps by the age of 24.
None of the experiences were particularly memorable either, all three were friendlies on away soil ending in defeat. His last outing, a year ago this week in Paris, was the ultimate leveller.
France were on their way to becoming world champions and, led by Kylian Mbappe, cruised into a 2-0 lead at the break and played keepball for the second half.
A wet night in the capital was just another dampener in a woeful year for Irish football, one Browne was substituted in with a half hour remaining.
Despite his club career going an upward trajectory since, the Cork native’s international ascent has stalled.
An untimely injury on the day before Mick McCarthy selected his first squad in March denied him the use of a player who ended the campaign boasting a haul of 12 goals from midfield for Preston.
“Looking from the outside, last year looked bad,” he admitted at the Ireland training camp in Portugal. It reflected badly on us players and I don’t think we did ourselves justice. For me, this year under a new manager is a chance to get my Ireland career up and running. It hadn’t been great for me so far.
“I knew what the step-up from the Championship would be like from the previous couple of caps but the France match 12 months ago was a totally different ball game. You could obviously see why they went on to become world champions.
“They’re a top-class side all over the pitch and every one of them is playing at the highest level they can. I wouldn’t say that I froze but there was probably just naivety.”
There’s no friendlies to experiment over this particularly gathering, one geared for the double-header of Euro 2020 qualifiers against Denmark on Friday week and Gibraltar three days later.
With James McCarthy and Harry Arter unavailable through injury and both Conor Hourihane and Glenn Whelan only reporting in next week following Monday’s Championship playoff final, Browne has a full week of training as a headstart to nail down a place.
McCarthy, as a veteran of the Championship, has wanted to work with the former Cork City playmaker, bemoaning his absence of the wins over Gibraltar and Georgia in March.
“Seán Maguire, my team-mate at Preston, was telling me everybody was lively for the March games and it seemed to be a complete change around,” he noted.
“There’s a good atmosphere at the moment in the camp and the boys are competing to get into the first 11. Everyone has to prove themselves again when a new manager comes in and the boys are well aware of that.
“I’m a better player a year on and feel fit after recovering from injury. The pressure is definitely that bit higher representing your country but I’ve never let that get to me.”
Meanwhile, McCarthy lost his second-choice goalkeeper after Mark Travers picked up an injury in Portugal. The Bournemouth stopper, who started the last Premier League games of the season, suffered a displaced fracture of the thumb.
“It’s really sad for us because he’s a great lad to have around the place and a good goalkeeper,” said McCarthy. “He’s got to go back and get it repaired if he wants to be ready for the start of the Premier League season.”