Hull man Meyler eager to force door to Ireland team wide open and stake his claim
INTERNATIONAL football was something of a closed shop in the reign of Giovanni Trapattoni.
And while Martin O'Neill has not exactly opened the gates and flooded the Ireland camp with new blood, with just two debutants since the Derry native took charge (Rob Elliot and Shane Duffy), David Meyler feels that the door to opportunity is more open now than in the previous regime, as O'Neill uses tomorrow's friendly with Oman to fine-tune his plans for Sunday's big qualifier in Tbilisi.
"Under Trap, lads trained but he mostly picked same guys," says Meyler, who made his debut under Trapattoni but was very much on the fringes of Trap's plans.
"This is open? Of course it is, because the manager now isn't Giovanni Trapattoni, he's his own man.
"He'll play his own way, and do his own thing, and shape his own team. I played under him at Sunderland. He'll pick the eleven that he thinks will go out and win him a game. That's the way he was there. He will chop and change if needs be. He's had a fantastic career and he'll surely shape a decent Irish set-up and please God we'll qualify for France."
Previously, the central midfield positions with Ireland picked themselves, with Glenn Whelan partnering A.N. Other. Whelan and James McCarthy are the men uppermost in O'Neill's thoughts but Darron Gibson, Jeff Hendrick, Meyler and Stephen Quinn have genuine claims.
And for former Cork City man Meyler, this campaign is a chance for him to move from the fringe to centre-stage, his cause helped by the fact that Roy Keane took Meyler to England and O'Neill gave him a chance.
"I've got to kick on again. I've got to try and force my way into the team where I'm playing regularly all the time," says Meyler.
"It's not going to be easy because James (McCarthy) is playing fantastic, you've got Darron Gibson who's back now from his injury. He looked very sharp this morning in training and obviously Quinny, who I play with regularly. It's going to be tough, but there's good competition and that's what every team needs.
"You've got three or four now for each position. Look at the wingers - you've got Brady, McClean, Pilkington, McGeady. There's loads of them everywhere. There's plenty of players gunning for a place. Whatever eleven the manager decides to pick, you can be sure that everyone who's on the bench or not involved will be cheering them on.
"But come Monday morning, when we're back out training, they'll be wanting to take the shirt off their back. That's the way it's always been in sport. Everyone's competitive and everyone wants to play."
Tomorrow's opponents, Oman, feature prominently in the David Meyler story as that was the opposition for his international debut.
"I don't think any man will forget the first time he plays for Ireland. I remember my debut for Sunderland, my debut for Hull, my first goal in the Premier League, my first goal in the FA Cup. Hopefully I'm due an Ireland goal sometime," he recalls.
"Robbie Brady scored, I remember it. It's a long time ago now. It was a tough game. They were very organized, all very athletic-looking on the field. We just got a killer goal. I think it was Robbie crossed one in for somebody, and it was a header at the back post and that was kind of it.
"It gave us a platform. We were 1-0 up and they kind of fell by the wayside and we dominated the game. It's always nice to play a team that you made your debut against."