James McCarthy is ready to put tough personal times behind him and finally ignite his Republic of Ireland career.
McCarthy was one of the instrumental figures in helping Wigan stage a remarkable run to retain their place in the Barclays Premier League at the end of last season.
A call-up for Ireland’s Euro 2012 squad beckoned, only for the 21-year-old to agonisingly withdraw his name from selection as father Willie had been diagnosed with cancer.
McCarthy was at least able to spend the summer with his father, and whilst the battle goes on, he is able to focus on football again, starting with tonight’s friendly with Serbia in Belgrade.
“My dad is still getting treatment and fingers crossed everything goes well. At least things are more positive,” said McCarthy
“It’s obviously been a tough time. Now and again he gets a bit down, but it’s hard for him given the treatment.
“I try to get up (to Glasgow) as much as I can. I wanted to see more of him, so I went home during the summer and spent it with him.
“It was good to get home, but it was disappointing missing out on the Euros, and it was tough to watch.”
Boss Giovanni Trapattoni’s side ultimately disappointed, losing all three group matches against Croatia, Italy and Spain.
“A lot of people said it was a terrible campaign, but the most important thing is we learn from it, and we take positives,” said McCarthy.
“It obviously wasn’t easy, but we played three massive teams, with two of those in Italy and Spain who reached the final.
“I’m sure we’ll kick on from it.”
McCarthy represents the new face of Trapattoni’s Ireland ahead of the forthcoming World Cup qualifying campaign that opens with a game in Kazakhstan on September 7.
As a guaranteed starter tonight, McCarthy now has the chance to impress the veteran Italian and build a long-lasting career at international level.
With just three caps to date, and with the last of those in a 66-minute run-out in a 3-2 defeat to Uruguay 18 months ago, McCarthy is determined to grab this opportunity.
“I hope I’ve a run of games ahead of me now because it’s been stop-start with Ireland for me so far,” said McCarthy.
“Tonight is a big night for me and a few of the other boys, to put on a show and proving to the gaffer we want to play as much as we can.
“It’s about working hard and forcing him to make a big decision as to who to leave in and out ahead of the game with Kazakhstan.”
With a number of big names absent, notably Shay Given following his announcement on Monday he was retiring from international football, Kieren Westwood takes over the number one spot.
Paul McShane, Darren O’Dea, John O’Shea (captain) and Stephen Kelly line up in defence, with Aiden McGeady, McCarthy, Glenn Whelan and James McClean across the middle, and Jon Walters and Shane Long in attack.