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Wednesday 13 December 2017

McGeady: I've come back to defend my patch

MOSCOW, the Spanish costas, Abu Dhabi, Dublin, Cyprus, Tatarstan. It reads like a list of locations from the latest Jason Bourne flick, but instead that is the lot of Aiden McGeady in a busy few weeks for the Irish footballer.

But the fact that McGeady is in Dublin today preparing for tomorrow's international friendly against the Czech Republic not only says a lot about the player's dedication to the cause but also his steely determination to hang on to the place in Ireland's starting XI, which he has worked so hard to nail down.

Given that he was knocked off course during pre-season with his club by injury, and that the Russian league season only restarts next weekend after a winter break, McGeady could have been excused for ducking out of Ireland duty this week so he could work on his fitness and also lessen the amount of travelling he needs.

But McGeady, who played his first Ireland match in an U17 game a decade ago (see panel), taking the easy option is never an option.

"I was always going to be here for the Ireland game, international football is one of the best things you can get and I want to get as many caps as I can (get)," McGeady told the Evening Herald.



Brilliant

"It was never in my mind, not even for a second, to miss out on this trip. The timing isn't brilliant as our league season with Spartak is only starting back in the next few days and there's a lot of travel involved.

"We were in Abu Dhabi, then Spain, then Spain again, now it's off to Cyprus after this trip, we just had to do that as it was too cold to train in Moscow.

"I'm actually off to Cyprus after this game in Dublin -- and we're going straight from Cyprus to Kazan, our game against Rubin was moved from Moscow to Kazan. But I want to be here," says McGeady.

The Glasgow-born player was a peripheral figure for quite some time after making his senior Ireland debut under Brian Kerr in 2004, but in recent times he's established himself in the side. McGeady started every game in the qualifying campaign, apart from the home leg of the play-off against Estonia, but now with young pretenders like James McClean on the scene, things are a little more nervy for the established players.

"There is pressure for places now but I'm hoping I can play tomorrow night and play well. I have been pretty consistent throughout the qualifying campaign and hopefully the manager will stay true to that and go with the players who helped us to qualify," says McGeady.

"But he may change his mind, in football things can change very quickly. Just keeping my place in the team is not the reason I came here.

"I wanted to be here anyway, but it is a possibility that players can come into the squad now.

"I have been in the squad for a few years now but it's only in the last two or three years that I have started to become a regular, playing in most games, so it's been a long time coming and I just can't wait for the finals to come around," added the winger.

While his old team-mates at Celtic Park effectively have their league title already won, the Russian League season only gets back to action after a winter break next weekend.

After the first round (32 games), Spartak lie fourth in an eight-team mini-league, eight points behind leaders Zenit St Petersburg, who have been boosted by the signing of Andrei Arshavin.

There was concern earlier this month when McGeady suffered an ankle injury in training as a similar injury sidelined him for a long spell last year but he insists he's fully fit.



Nightmare

"The injury is fine now. I did my other ankle last year and I was out for nearly three months, it was a nightmare but thankfully it was ok this time," he says.

"The season is strange in Russia this year, we've had a winter break but now we're back next week. We have had a long pre-season, it's a long time to prepare for 12 games, and then we have the Euros after that so I don't know how much time I'll get off.

"But for now all that's on my mind is the Czech game. It's the last real game before the Euros so it's a big chance to impress and get into the manager's final squad selection."

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