Mick McCarthy starts the final countdown to Friday’s European Championship qualifier in Copenhagen with a fully fit squad after all 25 players trained at Abbotstown on Sunday.
The Ireland manager has highlighted the value he attaches to having attacking options line Callum Robinson and Ronan Curtis available to him after the pair missed the two games in March and both were clearly happy to be back about the place yesterday with the Preston player suggesting the more positive atmosphere that has been generated by getting six early points on the board.
“It’s been good, I’ve really enjoyed it,” says the 24-year-old Robinson who missed a good portion of last season with a hamstring injury that required surgery. “He [McCarthy] is a positive guy who likes to have a laugh at times which is good.
“I’m quite a happy sort of bubbly character around the squad so it’s really good to let yourself more free and enjoy it so he has come in with a really positive attitude and obviously the lads did great in March. It helps when your first two results are wins, so it’s been really good, yeah.”
The former England youth international has been working with Terry Connor on adding a couple of new things to his game and says he feels he can improve as a player over the course of the coming campaign. The focus just now, however, is on this week and another trip to Copenhagen where, he suggests, the team is under no particular pressure to be cagey.
“The lads will be positive after two good results in March,” he says. “There’s nothing to lose really. It’s not an all or nothing game for us, after the two wins but we’ll be going there hoping to get a good result.
“They’ve got some good players, the lad from Ajax they’ve got in the middle [Lasse Schone], he’s a really good player, I remember playing against him in the Aviva and that’s before you mention [Christian] Eriksen, [Pione] Sisto, players like that.
“These are good quality players and it’s going to be a challenge but I believe in the boys and believe we’ve got some really good quality. Obviously it’s going to be a challenge, but hopefully we can get something from the game, try and get a win, and then we’ve got Gibraltar to look at at the Aviva. I’m looking forward to it.”
Like Robinson, Curtis returns from injury hoping to break into a winning team and acknowledges that McCarthy is likely to stick with those who served him well in the opening games.
Even after the disappointment of Portsmouth’s play-off defeat, though, the 23 -year-old is clearly pleased to have made so much progress in the year since he made the move from Derry City.
“It’s been amazing, my journey so far,” he says. “To come in from Derry to Portsmouth, I didn’t think I was going to play. I thought I’d be a squad man who fits into the squad once my chance came and I take it. But the gaffer and the staff put their faith in me and I played most of the season really. I scored 13 goals and set up 16 or 17, so yeah a good season all round. I got Young Player of the Year too, so it’s been amazing.”
He made some headlines too for the mishap at his front door that almost cost him the top of his middle finger.
“It wasn’t sore when I did it, I didn’t think it was bad,” he recalls before prompting a fair bit of laughter with the qualification that: “it was bad in a sense that it was hanging off but,” he continues, “I didn’t feel the pain straight away.
“When I felt the pain was when I ran back up the stairs again and put my hand underneath the cold water. That’s when the nerves and the shock hit me. It started stinging then and that was it, straight to the hospital.
“”I thought then they’d have had to cut half of it off. It was just a little tiny piece of skin that was holding it on. So what I had to do was before I went to the hospital, peel it back over and hold it myself, just hold it in place until I got to the hospital. They managed to save it.
“It’s just a little scar now. It took three to six weeks for the bone inside, as I broke the bone in the finger and that was six weeks heeling. But it’s three and a half months now, and I can’t feel it. If I put my hand out now, I can hold people off so it’s not too bad.”