Newport County striker Pádraig Amond says the last three days have been among the proudest but also the most painful of his career as he had to wait for the rest of the world to find out what he already knew: that he had been called into the Republic of Ireland squad.
“I’ve known since Monday, but I’ve also known that I wasn’t allowed to go public, which has been a killer because it’s the biggest moment in my career and I couldn’t tell anyone,” says the 30-year-old from Carlow, who has scored 21 goals in 45 appearances for the League Two side this season, including a goal in each round of their memorable FA Cup run.
“It’s been mad, the longest few days ever, just waiting for the news to come out. Obviously I was able to share it with my family before it came out today but I’m still struggling to put it into words, how proud I am to have been called in.
“Without trying to be cliched or anything like that, I genuinely have been dreaming of this since I was a child; since I first started playing football. I’ve always wanted to play for Ireland. I’m just hoping that I get that opportunity now but I’m so happy just to have been called into the squad.”
Amond, who along with James Collins of Luton and young Bournemouth goalkeeper Mark Travers, are included in an extended Ireland squad for the first time, accepts that he still faces a challenge to make Mick McCarthy's 23-strong travelling party for the opening qualifier against Gibraltar on but he is certainly not settling for what he has achieved so far.
“First and foremost,” he says, “it’s a brilliant honour to be included amongst 38 players. It shows that they are watching, which is brilliant. It shows that I’m not far away which is, again, brilliant.
“I don’t want it to finish at this, though. I want to play for Ireland; I want to be in the squad when it’s cut down for Gibraltar and Georgia and I want to play in those games. That’s going to be tough but if somebody had said to me at the start of the season that I’d be in even this position, I’d have bitten their hand off for it.”
While 19 year-old Travers, formerly of Shamrock Rovers but still hugely inexperienced at senior level, is clearly being regarded as one with potential for the future, neither Amond nor 28-year-old Collins have too much time to waste and both will be hoping the regularity with which they have been finding the net for their clubs will persuade McCarthy he should take a closer look.
“I don’t know him but I know he’s a very good striker who has scored a lot of goals in the last couple of years, so his call up is fully deserved as well,” says Amond of the Luton Town player. “And it’s great for lower league players to see the two of us getting called in. It shows that there is a pathway if you are performing; it shows that the manager will pick you.”