He might not get to start in Copenhagen on Saturday but don’t rule out the possibility of Callum O’Dowda having a say in proceedings before the play-off against Denmark reaches its conclusion in Dublin next Tuesday night.
The 22-year-old is certainly in the form to capitalise on any chance he gets, after a few weeks which saw him make his competitive international debut against Moldova and then follow up that impressive outing for his country by scoring twice for his club, the first a stunner in the League Cup against Crystal Palace and the most recent, just last Saturday, helping Bristol City to the 2-1 win against Cardiff which has taken them up to fourth in the Championship table.
O’Dowda doesn’t disagree with the notion that his purple patch can be traced back to what he calls “the perfect scenario” of his 90 minutes at the Aviva in the 2-0 victory over the Moldovans in early October.
“Starting and getting three points was big for me in the way that the manager had the trust in me to play me in such a big game, one that we needed to win,” he reflects. “And it’s been going really well at club level as well since that last international break. I’ve done well and we’ve done well as a team.
“Since that game, I’ve had a lot of praise from the management both for club and country. In the last few games I’ve made a real impact with goals and assists. As soon as I got back to the club, I felt bigger, stronger.”
How does such a boost in confidence materially affect the way he plays?
“It’s more about confidence in attack,” he replies. “You try more things. If you look at the Palace goal, the way it came to me, it was just instinct to take a touch and volley it in. That’s what confidence does. You’re not afraid to do stuff. The safe option’s there but it’s about taking a risk and not caring if it doesn’t come off.”
As a winger, he praises Ireland coach Steve Guppy for his one-on-one work and, as an attacker with ambitions to increase his goal haul, doffs the cap to former Ireland international David Connolly who has given him some tips on finishing at Ashton Gate.
But when it comes to identifying the key to Ireland pulling off big results, he has no hesitation in emphasising the primacy of the collective over the individual.
“I’d probably say it’s how tight we are as a group. I’ve noticed it just from being a year in here. The team spirit is really something. At your club you are in each other’s pockets every day. Here you sometimes only get a week but still I’ve made so many, not just teammates, but mates as well. That does help. I’m not sure what it’s like in other countries but it’s definitely really something here.”
But he also thinks there’s more to this Irish team than good spirit.
“I definitely think we’ve a lot of quality,” he says. “Not that long ago, I was counting the players on the pitch and all except Cyrus Christie were playing in the Premier League. I think that helps, especially if you’re Denmark looking through our squad, seeing that quality. That’s definitely something to be afraid of. It’s not just the team spirit, we’ve got a good mix.”
To play a part in the crunch games against the Danes would, says O’Dowda, represent the high point of his career to date.
And, not one to be fazed by the pressure despite his tender years, he’d clearly relish the opportunity.
“When I was in the stand, four or five trips ago, you love being there but it’s not the same as being out on the pitch. It’s out of your control.
“You’re not on the bench or pitch to make an impact. You’re itching to get out there, shouting and screaming like a spectator. But the good thing is we’re doing well as a team so these two games, whether I’m starting or in the stands, I don’t really care so long as we win.”
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