KEVIN KILBANE, 104 caps to the good and 60 successive competitive games not out, beams a broad smile and looks forward to number 105 and a ride down Highway 61 in Yerevan this evening.
“Good news, innit?” he chirps. “They’ll be kicking me out soon. It’s good, really good. I think there’s a bit more expectation for this campaign considering the way the last one went, and the way it’s gone since Mr Trapattoni has taken over. We’re very hopeful and, from a personal point of view, I’m glad I’m in the squad again.”
The veteran chuckles and says he’s lost count of the number of times he’s been asked if he’s ready to call it a day for Ireland. This time will surely be the last time, however, as Kilbane admits that he did indeed come very close to packing it in after Paris.
“I did but I spoke to a few people and thought, at the end of the day, if you’re picked you’re picked and if you’re not, you’re not,” he reflects.
“I spoke to Liam Brady and other people and they were all very good. It was probably in my own mind as well.
“I spoke to my own family and they probably made it a little clearer for me really. It’s nice to hear people saying to stay around and see what happens. Ultimately, it’s the manager’s decision and he’s picking me, and I want to make myself available and to play.
“I’ve always said that international football is the pinnacle for me, the peak for me. So it’s great for me to come in alongside these players and be part of this squad.”
While there is a growing trend of established English internationals choosing club over country, by and large their Irish counterparts seem determined to see their international careers out to their natural end.
“Yeah I think we’ve always had that pride in the jersey,” says the 33-year-old Kilbane, “a pride of coming over and being in the squad. I’ve been asked since I was 27/28, ‘is this your last campaign?’ And Robbie, and Duff, and Dunne and probably even John O’Shea get asked that as well. But we want to be part of a team that goes to a big tournament. That’s within our grasp now.’’
But would he feel so committed to continuing if his role changed from certain starter to cover? “I just want to be part of the squad,” he answers without hesitation. “Someone did say to me – and it’s probably not fair to say who it is – but he said, ‘look, you can be part of the squad and might end up coming on for 10 or 15 minutes that could see a team through to a major championship’. So you’ve got to accept that sometimes you may not be playing or may not be starting but you have to have pride in being a member of the squad.”
That said, Kilbane admits to being “very disappointed” that he didn’t make the Hull City team last weekend.
Not only were there opportunities to leave Hull at the end of last season but Kilbane even took a significant wage cut to stay with the relegated club.
“The chairman’s made me out to be some kind of martyr,” he laughs. “I did take a wage drop to sign a year extension, but I just wanted to carry on playing. It was my intention to stay and help the club get back in the Premier League. And that’s what I’m looking to do. Okay, I’m no spring chicken but I still feel fit and strong.”
Of course, time waits for no man and Kilbane admits he being impressed by the man knocking on his door, Manchester City’s Greg Cunningham.
“Very, very impressed,” is Kevin’s assessment of his likely successor at left-full for Ireland. “I think he’s going to be pushing at Man City, though his problem could be that it’s going to be hard for him at club level. But coming in to the Irish squad, I’ve been impressed with his temperament, ability and stature. He seems to have bulked up into a very good player, and I can see him getting stronger.”
And what will Kilbane do when he hang up his boots for the last time? “I would like to go into the coaching side of it maybe,” he says. “I’ll start my badges over the next six months. That’s something that’s going to be on the cards over the next couple of years. But playing on is in the forefront of my mind right now.
“You’ve got to think of everything. Family life and everything has got to come into it. But I want to carry on playing, and it wouldn’t bother me going down the leagues. I just want to play as long as I can.”
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