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Saturday 3 December 2016

Brady lays a marker for road to finals in Russia

New owner of No. 10 shirt has goal targets

Ireland international Robbie Brady
Ireland international Robbie Brady
Ireland international Robbie Brady (c), pictured with students Cian Clarke and Frankie Haaba, as they helped to launch the Fingal County Council and the FAI’s pilot programme for Transition Year students which will give participants an opportunity to meet their educational requirements as well as developing football skills. Pic: Orla Murray/Ark Photography

If the Ladybird Book of Great Irish Goals ever hits the shelves, Robbie Brady is guaranteed to have a chapter all to himself.

Like Ronnie Whelan's goal against the USSR in 1988, or Ray Houghton's header which downed England that same year or Robbie Keane's equaliser against Germany in the 2002 World Cup, the goal which Brady scored in Lille to give Ireland a 1-0 win over Italy in June is one for the ages.

Yet for the Norwich City man, it's already time to move on in terms of his Ireland career. Around him, things have changed: Robbie Keane's no longer on the scene and Brady is now the proud possessor of the No. 10 jersey which his namesake owned for over a decade, Brady winning the right to get the No. 10 shirt ahead of Jon Walters on the toss of a coin between the pair.

Impossible

"There was a few of us wanting it. Me and Jonny Walters were the last two and he sort of said 'you have it'," says Brady,

"I said 'no it wouldn't be fair'. So we flipped a coin for it and I ended up getting it. I texted Rob to say I'm taking over it and I'll try not to dirty it too much. He said 'All you have to do is score 69 goals. It's near enough impossible to do what Robbie has done for this country but I'll do as best as I can."

Brady, in Dublin yesterday to launch a scheme between the FAI and Fingal County Council which allows Transition Year students include football as part of their TY work, will have his work cut out to reach 69 goals, but his goal against Italy in the summer has been in his mind, on rewind on the TV set at home in Baldoyle.

"I just have to put this away now until I'm finished because I still have a job to do. I can't just be watching that 200 times over and over," says Brady, joking that he's "only" watched the goal back 190 times.

"It was weird, sitting on the sofa with my family watching, it was emotional because of everything. That's all you ever dream of doing, to be able to go and do something like that for your country, it's a proud moment and I'll never forget it.

"That's a bit of the reward for getting a goal at such a high level. People will remember it. There have been so many people who have had unbelievable careers for Ireland but there aren't many who can have that type of moment and get a goal like that. there's not many who can get that excitement. I'm over the moon that I was able to feel that," he adds, stressing the need to move on from Lille and look to Georgia and Moldova over the next week.

"Hopefully I can go and do something special in this campaign. I feel like I've got a lot left in me and hope there is more to be spoke about than just the goal. I want to go on and have a great career for Ireland, score as many goals and create chances and do things that we haven't done before. It's a massive aim but we're going in the right direction and I want to be a part of it."

His own confidence high after scoring a classy goal for Norwich over the weekend, Brady is aware of how tough it will be to reach Russia in 2018.

Target

"It was a big target when Martin came in. The first thing he did was he drew a circle on a board, put France in the middle and said that's where we want to be in a couple of years' time," says Brady, adding with a smile that O'Neill hasn't since drawn Russia on a whiteboard as he "doesn't have enough ink in his markers".

"I think the next two games are going to be tough. They will be different games. I'm looking to the first one on Thursday, getting underway, to set us on the right way. A six-point week would be great for us."

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