Sammon: My Ireland call-up means so much
IRELAND new boy Conor Sammon says he never lost hope that he could one day play international football - and that patience has been rewarded with the news that the Derby County man has been called into the senior panel for next month's international against Poland.
The fact that five uncapped players are in the squad is notable but so is the fact that Derby County, who once had a very strong presence in the Irish side, have three of their players in the squad, 25-year-old Sammon in there alongside Jeff Hendrick and Richard Keogh.
It's also a fact that a third of the squad are ex-League of Ireland players, again putting question marks around Trapattoni's belief that there is "no league in Ireland" as Sammon learned his trade with UCD and refined it at Derry City before moving abroad, ending up at Derby after spells in the top flight of Scotland (Kilmarnock) and England (Wigan).
Sammon's last time to wear the green shirt at any level was in an U21 game in Athlone over five years ago, but the former Cherry Orchard man says that hope of winning a senior cap stayed with him.
"Whenever anyone asked me about Ireland I always said the same: if I kept playing well for my club at whatever level I'd have a chance of catching the manager's eye and that's what has happened," the Malahide lad told the Evening Herald after learning of his call-up yesterday.
"I never gave it too much thought, it was there in the back of my mind that if my club career went well I'd get an opportunity with my country, and now I have a chance.
"And it seems to be happening to so many players now, that they get a chance in the League of Ireland and then work their way up to the Irish squad. I went from Cherry Orchard to UCD, Pete Mahon and Eddie Wallace were in charge then and I owe UCD an awful lot," he added.
It's one of those strange twists of fate that Sammon was nowhere near the Ireland squad when he was playing in England's Premier League alongside James McCarthy with Wigan, but now he's with a mid-table Championship side he's been given the nod, as Trapattoni has obviously come away impressed from his two recent trips to see Derby play.
"When I was at Wigan I know I was in the top flight but I was in and out of the team, so it was hard to do well, whereas here at Derby I've had the chance to play every week, the manager has shown great belief in me and the rewards have come now. It's great for Derby County as a club to have three players in the Irish squad."
Sammon will be able to settle into the squad easily enough, with lots of familiar faces. Apart from his fellow Derby players he's well acquainted with others, having played with Darren O'Dea and Andy Keogh at underage level for Ireland, was a team-mate of James McCarthy at Wigan and was a team-mate of James McClean at Derry.
"It's so long since I was involved with Ireland, with the U21s, that it's hard to remember all that comes with it, I imagine I'll have to sing a song in front of the rest of the squad next month but I'll cope with that.
"It means a lot to me and my family to get the call-up, now it's a matter of staying fit until I can get over to Dublin for training and showing the manager what I can do."