Clark's second coming starts here
Ciaran Clark admits he wondered if his race was run at international level and that the door to the Ireland squad would remain closed.
But the Newcastle United man, back in the team and back on form at club level after a long spell out in the cold, says he's relieved to be able to extend his time in the green shirt. Clark starts in defence in tonight's friendly at home to New Zealand.
It will be his first cap in 13 months and his last outing, a 4-1 loss away to Wales in the Nations League, was not how he wanted it to end.
"Obviously it was a tough game, that last game, for me. But after that I wasn't sure what was going to happen," he says, as the lack of club football at Newcastle - Clark didn't feature once in the Premier League between January and October of this year - made him worry if he'd ever be back in green.
"That does go through your head when you aren't playing games. But there was always a thing in the back of my mind knowing I was going to be playing games eventually, whether it was at Newcastle or not," he says.
"I always thought there would be a chance, but it is still not nice to think about it. Look, the lads have done brilliant in this campaign. I'm just glad to be back involved and back with the boys. There are some fresh new faces. I'm just looking forward to the games now.
"I haven't played [for Ireland] in a while. I've just got back into the team at Newcastle, so to get back into the team would be brilliant.
"Mick has come in and done an unbelievable job. He has brought lads in who are playing week in, week out and has found some fresh faces as well."
He said he considered a move away from St James's Park to secure first team football for himself over the summer, having not played in the second half of last season. This campaign was more of the same, until Steve Bruce put him into the side last month, and Clark has delivered, scoring in the last two Premier League games for United, two wins.