O'Dowda's getting used to 'step up' with Ireland
Callum O'Dowda doesn't get to play against too many world-class players with his day job at Bristol City.
He doesn't get to play that much at all, in fact, having started only two of his club's six league games to date.
But the 23-year-old, the youngest member of the current Republic of Ireland squad, believes he is finally starting to adapt to life on the big stage that is international football.
O'Dowda failed to impress in last week's 4-1 loss to Wales but he played out of his skin in Tuesday's draw away to Poland, the winger claiming an assist for Aiden O'Brien's goal.
He was, literally, up against it as his opponents in midfield were people like Karol Linetty (Sampdoria) and Grzegorz Krychowiak (Lokomotiv Moscow); players with plenty of experience on stages like the World Cup finals, Serie A, the Champions League and La Liga - Krychowiak a multiple winner of the Europa League.
Not only is O'Dowda in England's second tier, he's not in the team with his club and he admits it has been a struggle to climb the ladder, though he is getting there.
"It has been hard, international football is definitely a step-up from the Championship," O'Dowda told The Herald.
"I have played against Premier League teams in the cups but international football is a level above, I don't care what anyone says, it' s very tough, you are up against top-class players, we were up against players from Serie A and the Bundesliga the other night, top class players, the step-up is hard. At first I wasn't starting games, I am starting games with Ireland now and I feel I am gaining confidence.
"Yes, it's a step-up, when you are not in the team at club level it's frustrating, but I want to do well and make an impact when I come on with the club, help the team as much as I can and it's the same here with Ireland.
"With me not playing in the last few games at Bristol City that's given me a bit more energy for these Ireland games.
"I cover the ground well. When I am here, I want to be putting in performances. I know my manager is watching and I want him to see how I do," added the midfielder, who felt at home in the five-man midfield against Poland.
"I don't mind really what formation we have, if we play a 4-4-2 I probably play wide or just off the striker. If we are in a three, I have that licence to drift where I want as I did on Tuesday night. I have two behind me if I do lose the ball so I'm not that bothered about the formation," he added, attention already switched to the home tests with Denmark and Wales next month.
"This Poland game was the big preparation, we have two big games on the way, we will hopefully have some big players back like James McClean.
"The performance in Poland was positive and it puts us in good stead for the next qualifiers," O'Dowda said.