Robbie Brady itching to get the Ireland jersey back on
Midfielder has missed a lot of football with injuries but is now back and ready to go
Ireland’s Robbie Brady poses for a picture with a young fan during training ahead of the friendly with Northern Ireland. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Matt Doherty remains a doubt for Ireland’s clash with Northern Ireland on Thursday after missing training yesterday to see a specialist about a facial injury sustained when he took an elbow to just above his eye against Arsenal on Sunday.
Ciaran Clark and Shane Long are sure to be missing but there have been times over the past year when Martin O’Neill sounded as though he would forego a fair few of his squad to have Robbie Brady back and to judge by the 26-year-old after day two of training, the enthusiasm is mutual.
The Dubliner was itching to be back around the place, he says, and after 48 hours knocking around the team hotel he swears he is already starting to feel as if he was never away.
On the face of it, he is still returning from injury really with just three games under his belt since he ended an 11-month absence prompted by the knee injury he sustained when he went for the same ball as his friend, the Leicester City defender Harry Maguire, and came off the worst of it.
Before the mishap, Brady had been struggling slightly with a touch of tendonitis in his knee and laughs now that the upside of everything he has been through is that that is gone. “He’s helped me in a way because that burning sensation is gone but I’ve had a year out for that.”
That year, he says, was tough, even more mentally than physically as he endured the solitude of rehab. The sense of dejection was added to by watching Ireland struggle and though he came over last month to touch base with his international team mates, he is relieved be back in a position to actually contribute.
“I haven’t played a game for Ireland for 12 months now, but I’ve been feeling stronger as the months have gone on. Coming into it now, I feel really good. We played Hull under-23s in one of my first games back,” he recalls, “and a young lad came through my knee, a straight leg, so that was a good test for it in the first few minutes. I had a little word, told him to calm down. But I came through it. It’s solid; it’s as strong as it’s ever been.”
The midfielder is not promising any miracles but is certainly hoping at some point soon to recover the sort of form that made him one of the stars of the show for Ireland in France a couple of summers ago. A fair few players have gone since then and he readily accepts that he has more of a responsibility to lead by example now that he might reasonably be categorised as one of the squad’s senior players.
“Definitely,” he says. “A few of the lads were talking there about James McClean’s goal (in Austria) and that’s a couple of years ago now. The qualifier with Bosnia was a year before that again, three years ago today, I don’t know where those three years have gone.
“The familiar faces are gone and a rebuilding stages has gone on from the start of the year. We’re starting to gel now and I still keep in contact, I still speak to the lads who’ve left every day. They were great for me and helped me but I’m that little bit older now and hopefully wiser so hopefully I can help these young lads coming in. Some of them have great ability so if I can help them as well as the senior lads who helped me, I will try and give them a hand along the way.”
But he admits it is not entirely selfless stuff. Brady is desperate to make up for some of the time he has lost.
“I’ve missed out on quite a few caps over the years with little niggles and injuries. That’s annoying in itself but when you are completely sidelined for the year…”
His routine at Burnley, he says, has involved travelling to training each day with seven or eight other players, “having the craic,” on the road but then heading off to the gym to work alone while they made for the pitches.
“Then half the group is away for international duty and the place is even quieter. It’s disappointing when you can’t travel away. Walking out at the Aviva is always special. I’m desperate to get back to it, I’m desperate to go out and play there and then play in Denmark the week after. It’s been a long time coming. I’m really looking forward to it.”