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Saturday 10 December 2016

Derry air just right for LOI's Austrian import Schubert

Austrian international Stefan Ilsanker (left) is pictured with Derry City’s Austrian star Lukas Schubert (second from right) after a game at the Brandywell.
Austrian international Stefan Ilsanker (left) is pictured with Derry City’s Austrian star Lukas Schubert (second from right) after a game at the Brandywell.

As a proud son of Austria, Lukas Schubert will be in the stadium in Vienna and of course be cheering on his native country in Saturday's World Cup qualifier.

But, having spent the last year living in Ireland playing for Derry City, the 27-year-old has already lost a bit of his heart to the country which adopted him and rescued a football career which was almost killed off by, well, a heart complaint.

His spell in Derry - and he could be back for 2017 - is the reason why Bundesliga star Stefan Ilsanker, likely to start in midfield for Austria on Saturday, has been to more League of Ireland matches than, say, Keiren Westwood, as Ilsanker came to Derry earlier this year to watch his pal Schubert, a popular figure around Brandywell way, play for City.

Passion

"I enjoyed the season at Derry, it went really well for me, especially as I was out for two years with a heart condition, Derry City gave me the chance to play as a professional again and I am very thankful for that," says Salzburg native Schubert.

"The fans there are amazing, they really love their football, I had a good time there and I'd like to be back next year."

Standards in the LOI are hammered all the time but Schubert, good enough to play alongside current Austrian team captain Julian Baumgartlinger as a schoolboy, just loves the rough and tumble.

"In Ireland most of the stadiums are old but you get a special feeling from them. In Austria, the stadiums are all modern, nice and clean, the marketing and infrastructure in Austria is much better.

"But in Ireland I get a special feeling when I play in somewhere like Dalymount Park or Richmond Park, a feeling I don't get in Austria. And the fans in Ireland have way more passion, I love seeing the crazies shouting at the matches in Ireland."

Like all Austrians, he was let down by the side's showing at Euro 2016 and is hungry for World Cup success, but fears that injuries in the Austrian camp, and a stronger Irish work ethic, could work in Martin O'Neill's favour, Schubert bemoaning the loss through injury of playmaker Zlatko Junuzovic and the lack of a goal threat up front.

"I see the spirit in the Irish team as being higher than with Austria. Austria have more quality, creative players: Junuzovic and Marko Arnautovic are top players, they can create things that maybe only Robbie Brady can create with Ireland.

"Austria have more quality, but Ireland have more spirit," he says.

Expectations

"We do have an Austrian mentality, to maybe settle for things, it's hard to admit but it is true," he added, that failing evident in France.

"With Austrians, when we do just a little bit good we are over the moon. But expectations for the Euros were very high, we thought we'd get the semi-finals for sure. The danger is when it goes the other way, our expectations were way too high for this team in France. We weren't at our best, they reached their peak in qualifying and then went down.

"We struggle for goals and we rely a lot on Marc Janko. Austria are under pressure as they are at home but see Ireland getting a draw, I think Martin O'Neill would accept a point."

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