Greg Cunningham desperate to add more Rep of Ireland caps
An Ireland debut against a Messi-led Argentina side gave a young Greg Cunningham an early dose of exposure on the national stage.
It's been very quiet for the last few years for the Galway-born player after he swapped the riches of Manchester City for life in England's third tier, with Bristol City. But with a new club and a fresh chance to prove himself in the Championship in the Preston shirt, the 24-year-old is looking up, not down.
Giovanni Trapattoni and Roberto Mancini were early admirers of Cunningham as the Italians gave Cunningham his international and Premier League debut in the space of a few months in 2010.
It's over two years since he last featured for Ireland but Cunningham knows that past reputation counts for nothing as only some hard work and impressive form with Preston in the coming Championship campaign will help him catch the eye of Martin O'Neill and offer himself as a solution to Ireland's left back dilemma, Cunningham on board with Preston after a move from Bristol City earlier this week.
"I have always said that if you focus on your club career and do well every Saturday, then international football can happen or at least you have a chance of an international call-up. I am certainly not going to start shouting about me being in the Irish squad just because I am in the Championship, I need to be playing well, week in week out, for Ireland to have a look at me," Cunningham told The Herald, having made his Preston debut in a midweek friendly.
"Unless I am playing well for my club, the Irish management are not going to have a look at me so that's the first aim for me, to do well for Preston.
"Like any Irishman, it's an absolute privilege to get called up to play for your country and you treasure every cap you get, you dream about playing for Ireland and getting to major tournaments but for me, I have to focus on doing well for the club and see where that takes me," he added, memories still fresh of his first cap in 2010.
"Just to play for Ireland at senior level is great but to make your debut at home, against Argentina, against players like Messi and di Maria, is a dream come true. I feel very lucky to have four caps already and been involved in a few squads, I haven't been involved for a while now but if things go well for me, if I keep improving as a player it can happen again."
Cunningham was part of the Bristol City side which won promotion last season but he was on the fringes too much for his liking and once the chance of a move came, it was an easy call.
"It's about getting game time. I didn't play as much I'd have liked last season, and I felt it was best for me to leave Bristol City. Preston came in for me, they are a massive club and it's a great opportunity" he said.
"It's a big season ahead of us. It's all about momentum, Brentford came up and carried their winning run into the Championship, you see Norwich getting back to back promotions, we are more than capable of doing the same as it's such a tight league. If you believe in yourself and work hard, things can happen."