Seamus Coleman: ‘I can’t explain how I’ve missed it’

Irish captain insists team’s morale and expectations are high heading into qualifiers

Seamus Coleman insists that the Irish team are heading into Wednesday night's opening World Cup qualifier in Belgrade confident that they can take a first step towards a place at the finals tournament in Qatar next year.

Stephen Kenny's squad is without a number of important players - the likes of John Egan, James McCarthy and Conor Hourihane - due to injury problems and Mark Travers is set to make his competitive debut in goal because of Darren Randolph's absence but Coleman is adamant that the team's morale and expectations are high heading into the fixture.

“They (Serbia) are a good side,” he says. “We don’t know how they will line out but their wing-backs are good and fast; they have the likes of (Dusan) Tadic and (Aleksandar) Mitrovic up top so I’m sure that they’ll be expecting to go out and get a result but we are confident too.

“We are going there with a plan and we are really looking forward to it. It would be great for us to get a result and push on from there into the rest of the campaign.”

There is some concern about such a relatively inexperienced goalkeeper - Kenny has indicated that it will be Travers - having to step in for such a big game but the skipper says he has been impressed by both the 21 year-old and the even younger Gavin Bazunu.

"We've been blessed to have Darren Randolph, " says Coleman, "but we have really good young 'keepers and very confident in themselves as well. Some of the saves they pull off in training are unbelievable and whichever of them it is that plays should enjoy it.

“The bit I’ve seen of Mark, I’d have absolutely no doubts about him. And from what I’ve seen of Gavin in games, I’d have no doubts about him either; he’s a very good young keeper.”

As for himself, Coleman returns after missing 10 games and looks to be in a strong position to start. “I can’t explain how I’ve missed it,” he says. “It’s been on my mind. I can’t even remember when the last one I played in was so just to get here, to be with the lads and the staff is an amazing feeling but putting on the green jersey is what we all want.”