Sunday 23 October 2016

Confident Callum hits right notes

Callum O’Dowda
Callum O’Dowda

From the fourth tier of English football to the European Championship finals is a big leap.

No wonder, really, that someone laughed at Callum O'Dowda for stating his ambition of breaking into the senior Ireland squad while he was on the books at the humble League Two side Oxford United.

But the attacking midfielder is the one with the smile on his face now as O'Dowda enjoys a spell training with Martin O'Neill's senior squad in the build-up to Euro 2016.

Realistically, the 21-year-old will not make it into the Irish squad for the finals in France, but he does have an advantage over competing players in his position as he's here in Dublin to train and could even be involved in the looming friendly games against Holland and Belarus.


O'Dowda definitely won't be in the fourth tier next season as he's helped Oxford win promotion to League One and it seems only a matter of time before he plays at a higher level.

His talent is a sound basis for the confidence he showed by expressing his wish to progress beyond his current status as an U21 international.

"It's a bit weird," says O'Dowda. "Because I spoke to one of the press officers at Oxford. They said 'what are your aims and ambitions this year, not only with Oxford but the Republic of Ireland?'

"I did say I wanted to see if I could try to push into the senior team in Ireland and he laughed at me and said 'Are you serious?' And I said 'Yeah, I'm deadly serious'. That was my aim."

The Oxford player, a grandson of Irish tenor Brendan O'Dowda, has made it this far, having caught O'Neill's eye while playing for the Irish U21s and his club, including an appearance at Wembley in a cup final which prepared him for what's to come.

"Obviously I want to come in here and show people what I can do. And if I can get on the plane [to France], then fantastic. If not, I will be working hard next season as well to try to get back into the team," he says, unfazed by the daunting task of bedding into the senior panel.

"The lads have been really welcoming so it has been really good. And I recently played at Wembley in front of 60,000 people for Oxford so I have dealt with pressure before.

"So that side of the game, I can handle. It's good to be playing with these better players, you could say, playing with the elite."

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