The second coming of Stephen Gleeson has been a long time in the making, but the Birmingham City midfielder feels he’s better prepared for international duty than when he won his only two Irish caps on a tour of America under Steve Staunton.
Now aged 27, the affable Dubliner admits that, the first time around, back in 2007, probably came too soon for him.
“I think so, yeah. I don’t think I did my best out there. I was a bit overawed — senior team, 18 years of age, with all these names around me. I’m coming back into the squad now and I’m more mature, I’m more confident in my own ability. I’d say it was great to go [to the States] but I’d do it differently if I had this head on me now.
“I know this summer is a long shot for me, but just to get my face back into the squad is great. For me, realistically, I’m probably looking after this tournament to get back involved more regularly, but it’s great to be in and training with these players. I’m not overawed by it and I’m taking it all in this time. It’s just a pleasure to be back on board.”
Capping it off this Easter would be a chance to share a pitch, for the first time ever, with his cousin Glenn Whelan.
“Yeah, it’s always been a dream of both families [for us] to get out together,” said Gleeson, smiling.
“He’s done brilliant for Ireland over the last few years and he’s well established. I’m coming in here and if he can give me any pointers then great, but I’m looking to get on the pitch as well.”
Having been named in the 40-man squad, Gleeson wasn’t sure if he’d make Martin O’Neill’s final cut and, so, had to keep his options open last weekend.
“The Birmingham squad were travelling out to Marbella on the Sunday, so I had two bags packed, one for sunshine and one for this weather,” he said. “He [Glenn] was one of the first on the phone to congratulate me, which was good.”
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