Robbie Brady warmed up for the international double-header in the best possible way, posting a stunning 25-yarder into the top corner to help Norwich beat Wolves in the Championship on Saturday.
The 24-year-old Dubliner has become associated with special goals, none for his country more memorable than the late header which gave Ireland that crucial victory over Italy at the Euros in France.
And equally unforgettable was the emotional celebration he shared with loved ones in the crowd at the final whistle in Lille.
“When you’re playing football with your brothers growing up, cartwheeling around the green pretending to be Robbie Keane, it’s a little bit surreal,” he said yesterday.
“But I just have to put that away now until I’m finished because I still have a job to do.
“I can’t just be watching that 200 times over and over.”
Has he not watched it back at all then?
“Only 190!” he grinned. “It was weird, sitting on the sofa with my family watching.
“Emotional because of everything. That’s all you ever dream of doing, to be able to go and do something like that for your country. It’s a proud moment and I’ll never forget it.
“A bit of the reward for getting a goal at such a high level [is that] people will remember it.
“There have been so many people who have had unbelievable careers for Ireland but there aren’t many who can have that type of moment and get a goal like that. There’s not many who can get that excitement. I’m over the moon that I was able to feel that.”
Martin O’Neill wasn’t the only one to assume Brady’s breakthrough performances at the Euros would see him following his pal Jeff Hendrick back into the Premier League but, with Norwich reportedly setting his price at £20m, prospective suitors were seemingly scared away.
“I was concentrating on being at Norwich anyway, keeping my head focused and as soon as the window closed it was sealed and there was no changing it,” he said.
“I think the fee was quite high, it’s what Norwich were after, but nothing came of it in the end so that sort of stuff is out of my hands. You can’t dwell on it.
“I had a little bit of a chat with Martin when I came in the last time, and it was fine.
“He thought I might have moved but it wasn’t to be in the end.
“I have a tough task at hand now with Norwich, we have a lot of games but it’s going well so far. You have to try and do the best you can and stick with it.
“There’s no sulking or any badness. It is what it is. I’m enjoying it so it’s all good.”
At international level, the Baldoyle native has inherited the other Robbie’s No 10 shirt, a toss of a coin deciding the issue.
“There was a few of us wanting it,” he said. “Me and Jonny Walters were the last two and he sort of said, ‘you have it’.
“I said, ‘no, it wouldn’t be fair’. So we flipped a coin for it and I ended up getting it.
“I texted Rob to say, ‘I’m taking it over and I’ll try not to dirty it too much’.
“He said, ‘all you have to do is score 69 goals!’ (Laughs)
“Nah, he’s a top man. I just thought it was a chance not to be missed and I want to do as much as I can for this country.
“It’s near enough impossible to do what Robbie has done but I’ll do as best as I can.”
Brady has seven international goals under his belt to date, and recently suggested his long-term target is to get past the 20 mark.
“Throughout the ages of my Ireland career I’ve scored goals, I like scoring goals,” he said.
““I want to score as many goals as I can for Ireland but I don’t think a number on a jersey will make a difference.”
More immediately, he’s hoping Ireland can build on their opening point away to Serbia with what he calls a “six-point week” against Georgia and Moldova.
And World Cup qualification is what it’s all about, he stresses, maintaining he’s not bothered by the “nice result, shame about the football” criticism which came in the wake of that 2-2 draw in Belgrade.
“No, because of the first part you said there which is the only thing that matters — a nice result. We try and play football when we can in different games with different situations.
“You won’t understand it unless you’re on the pitch but games go different ways sometimes. If you can play some good football it’s obviously enjoyable and it’s something we like to do.
“But we’ll go long if we have to because that is how the game goes. Results are all that matter.”
Beginning on Thursday at home to familiar but tricky foes, Georgia.
“Yeah, we never seem to be able to do things the easy way so hopefully this time we can go and get the wins when they’re there.
“There was a bit of messing going on last year trying to qualify but we got there in the end.
“When Martin O’Neill came in the first thing he did was draw a map and he drew a circle and put France in the middle and said ‘that’s where we want to be in a couple of years’ time’. And we managed to do that.”
Had he drawn Russia on the map yet?
“No,” he replied with a laugh, “he hadn’t got enough ink in his marker for that.”
Robbie Brady was speaking in the Corduff Sports Centre at the launch of the Fingal County Council/FAI Transition Year Football Development Course which aims to give 25 participants an opportunity to balance their education with football development throughout the 2016/17 school year.
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