Ireland made winning pitch for Cyrus Christie when interest was growing
Martin O’Neill admires Derby County defender for his attacking qualities
Cyrus Christie qualifies for Ireland through his grandmother, who now lives in England but grew up in Dublin’s North Wall, and whom Christie used to visit when she lived in Clontarf and Kildare. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
EMMET MALONE Quite how Cyrus Christie made it this far without being more actively engaged by the FAI seems something of a mystery as he stands pitchside in Malahide following his first training session with the Ireland squad.
The 22 year-old has more than 100 first team games to his credit with Coventry then Derby and certainly looks the part. Most came at Coventry where there was plenty of contact with players, present and past, who might have put the parties together. Somehow, though, it is only recently that he has started to really catch the eye of international managers at any level with the English under-21s finally expressing an interest just around the time that the Irish were beginning to take notice.
At that stage, he admits rather frankly, he did what many a pro would do in the circumstances; he consulted his agent. There were other talks too with County, and former England, boss Steve McClaren amongst those to provide encouragement. By the time Martin O’Neill called to see where he stood, he says, the decision was “a no brainer”.
Christie, to be fair, didn’t have to go off digging in order to uncover his connection. His grandmother, Mary Redmond, lives in England these days but she’s originally from Dublin’s North Wall and the defender used to visit during her days living in Clontarf and Kildare.
Declaring for Ireland then, was always a possibility but establishing himself at club level remained the priority, as the right back recalls: “I considered it a few times but then it slips your mind,” he says. “You start concentrating on trying to get your pro contracts and whatever. I’m just thankful to be here now and it’s all sorted.”
Perhaps it was the prospect of being just about the only Derby County player not to be involved in Friday’s game that tipped him over the edge in the end.
O’Neill enthusiasm for him was clear when he spoke about him recently. The northerner compared Christie to Seamus Coleman in terms of his attacking style and while the manager admitted yesterday that the Everton player would be tricky to displace, the new man provides welcome cover and, quite possibly, options in other positions.
At Coventry City, his hometown club, Christie started life alternating between life as a right winger and a striker but settled for right back after the club’s coaching staff had initially sought to use him in central defence.
Many of his early first team opportunities, though, came on the left side of the defence and he is, he insists, entirely comfortable in that role if the opportunity arises again.
“Yeah, I’ve played at left back,” he says, agreeably. “I played left back when I was first in the Championship, played there quite a few times so I’m capable of playing there, it’s just the same as right back really, there’s not much difference. I don’t mind playing off my left foot.
“I definitely like to get forward, though. I’ve spoken with the manager about it. I’m still learning a lot defensively but I’m an attack minded full-back.”
His progress at Derby has been impressive and it will be interesting to see how he copes with the different demands of international football, something he is likely to get a first taste of next Tuesday against the USA, always assuming O’Neill doesn’t decide to hand him a debut in Friday’s crunch qualifier.
“Yeah, I think he mentioned it,” he says when asked whether the manager has hinted of a run out in the friendly, “but I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m just here to show him what I’m capable of and hopefully of take it from there.”