Blades form steels Enda for big Ireland push
Enda Stevens is still waiting for his international career to take off at the age of 28.
But the former Shamrock Rovers man, in form at club level with a Sheffield United side flying high at the top of the Championship, says he has never been more ready to deliver on the big stage with Ireland.
It's not that the former UCD and St Pat's man is a slow learner. Back in 2011-12 it seemed like his career would take off in a major way, as in the space of a few months he had played in the group stages of the Europa League with the Hoops, earned a cross-channel move to Aston Villa, and played in the Premier League with Villa. He had to drop down some levels and lower his targets but Stevens is now in the frame with Ireland, in contention to play at left back in tomorrow's clash with Denmark.
"I feel that my time is now, I feel that I am ready now more than ever before," says the ex-Cherry Orchard player.
"I always thought that it would happen, it wasn't as if I felt that I was too old for the international scene.
"I can only speak for myself, and I needed to get to the Championship to have a chance of getting into the Ireland squad.
"That's why it took me to that age to get there. Once I got there, I get rewarded with a call-up.
"I'm still checking to see if I am in the squad every time that it is announced. I'm just happy to be here when called upon. I'll show up and if asked to play, I want to play and I'm just looking forward to these two games.
"Stephen Ward has been a great servant over the years. He's injured and if it's up for grabs then I want to play - I want to play in that position and hopefully I can make it my own."
Some players in the current Ireland squad came into camp with club woes on their minds, but for the two Irish lads at Bramall Lane (Stevens and John Egan), it's all smiles as they are the unlikely leaders of the Championship.
"We've had a good start to the season. We had a tough game against Hull at the weekend but we managed to come through it and we won three games in a week which was massive for us going into the international break. Now we are sitting nicely on top of the table," he says.
"It's down to working hard, we had a slow sort of start but we knew that the quality was there to get the season going," added Stevens, who plays at wing back while compatriot Egan lines out in a three-man central defence.
"John has settled in well and made the position his own. He's great on the ball so he sits there and keeps things going," says Stevens.
"He is a defender first but he reads the game well and he has settled in brilliantly.
"It's a back three and I enjoy it, it suits me and suits the way that we play. We like to play on the front foot, the wing backs get high up the pitch and we are putting pressue on the opposition. So it's good."