It’s fair to say Alan Browne and Aiden McGeady are at different ends of the international football spectrum.
A full month after the end of the Championship season, the Preston North End teammates are back in close confines on national service this week. But there’s nothing close about their respective Ireland records.
McGeady was sprung from the bench by Martin O’Neill at Lansdowne Road on Sunday, his cameo against Uruguay seeing him win his 89th international cap. Three days earlier against Mexico in New Jersey, Browne collected his first.
But as debate rages about the make-up of the Ireland side that will attempt to take a significant step towards next summer’s World Cup in a crucial qualifier with Austria in Dublin on Sunday, it is the newcomer who has words of encouragement for the veteran.
“Aiden’s role with Ireland is far from over,” insisted Browne, at 22 nine years junior to the long-serving winger. “He’s getting back to his best now where we’ve seen him many years ago.” McGeady joined up with Browne and company upon their return from the States last weekend. He did so on the back of his best club season for almost a decade, McGeady racking up assists and scoring a clutch of highlight reel goals for North End as they briefly flirted with the Championship play-offs.
McGeady last started a competitive game for his country in March 2015 but Browne insists with his confidence high, there may be no better time for O’Neill to unleash his former Celtic tyro.
“He’s one that kind of gets frustrated with himself,” said Browne. “You just have to keep telling him to get at players because when he does that, that’s when he’s at his best.
“Aiden delivered the goods for us a number of times this season and he knows the manager here with Ireland for a long time, so of course he can still be a big player for Ireland. He’s been great for us at the club.”
Whatever about McGeady, these are heady days for Browne. While much of the attention has focused on the whirlwind journey of two other members of the swelling Irish contingent at Deepdale — high-profile League of Ireland graduates Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle — Browne’s journey from the Cork City underage sides to international football has been equally impressive. The Mahon native crossed the channel just over three years ago but has already established firmly himself as a solid performer in the middle of Simon Grayson’s side, racking up 67 Championship appearances over the past two seasons.
Making that international bow, albeit in the alien surrounds of the MetLife Stadium last week, marked another significant milestone.
“It was a massive achievement for me…a great honour to represent my country. It was a proud moment in my career and hopefully there will be more to come,” said the central midfielder, who was a late call-up to this panel but as part of Preston’s Irish brigade, had been on the radar of O’Neill and assistant Roy Keane, long an idol of Browne’s.
“I was aware he was at a few games during the season. Himself and Martin have done well getting around to a lot of games. I was made aware they were at some games I was involved in and all I can do is try to impress.
“Knowing that players at your club are good enough to play at this level gives you great confidence coming into the camp. It also helps having a lot of Cork lads here as well. There are a few of us in there now!” And the aim now for the Ringmahon Rangers graduate?
“Just to get as many caps as I can, whether that’s now, in the near future, or down the line,” said Browne. “I’ll be working hard at club level and that’s all I can do, keep working hard with the club and hopefully the international management team will like what I do. It would be great if Martin and Roy took another interest in me.”
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