Starting your first competitive international as a midfielder against the world champions could be enough to crush some players but, as days tick down and his prospects increase, excitement rather than trepidation consumes David Meyler.
Glenn Whelan’s suspension for tomorrow’s visit of Germany creates a cavity Martin O’Neill needs to fill and, given the concerns he’s aired about Darron Gibson’s fitness, coupled with some pointers from his assistant Roy Keane yesterday, the Corkman is set to profit.
His mission, one he’s gladly amenable to, hinges on stemming the German supply from midfield by Toni Kroos in particular.
The Real Madrid playmaker, when afforded space like he was in last month’s victories over Poland and Scotland, possesses the range of passing to inflict damage, an ominous weapon for a night Ireland may require at least a draw to keep their play-off ambitions intact.
“We need to get into their faces and make it uncomfortable for Germany,” Hull City powerhouse Meyler said.
“We’ve all watched this side before. They get the ball down, pass it around and make it look pretty. We’ve got to be ruthless, get in their faces, make it tough and hopefully we can get result.
“Germany will dominate possession and create chance after chance, so the crowd have a huge part to play. There will probably be a full house and it’s nice to hear encouragement from them when we break forward to spur us on.
“You want your top players available so it’s disappointing that Glenn is suspended. But, look, that’s the way it is and there’s an opening there for somebody. When a player misses out, another has to fill the void and I’m hoping it’s me.”
Meyler’s last start in a qualifier came against the Germans a year ago. Pressed into an unorthodox right-back role, he performed admirably in Gelsenkirchen and left the pitch part of a side that had produced a gutsy 1-1 draw.
World champions they may be, the 26-year-old still felt they lacked an appreciation of their opposition. It took John O’Shea’s last-gasp equaliser to highlight that.
“I definitely think Germany underestimated us in the away game,” observed Meyler.
“They didn’t expect us to put in the performance that we did and I think that’s why we got a result in the end.
“Some people might have felt it was a hangover from Germany’s World Cup win but I don’t look at it that way. They were expecting to beat us, no matter whether it was before their World Cup win or not.
“Because Seamus was injured, the manager asked me to step in and do a job at right-back. Luckily, I had Jon Walters ahead of me on the right and John O’Shea alongside me to coach me through the game. It was a tough night but we worked hard to get that late equaliser.”
Depending on the result from Hampden Park tomorrow, Ireland could be guaranteed a play-off berth regardless of whether they upset Germany for the second time in this campaign.
Such an outcome would give Meyler a greater spring in his step when he attends the FAI Cup final on November 8 to watch his former side just days before a potential showdown for a place at the Euros would take place.
“Hopefully, I’ll get to catch that game,” he said with a broad smile. “Colin Healy was very good to me when I was at Cork City. He showed me the ropes and helped me become a better player and a better person so I’ve huge respect for him.
“He played in England, he played for Ireland, so he’s a man I looked up to when I first stepped out with City.”
Another midfielder poised to feature is Jeff Hendrick. The Derby County player has become a favourite of O’Neill, with his craft forming a central part of Ireland’s winning goal against Georgia last month.
“I don’t think you can show them too much respect,” reasons the 23-year-old, echoing the sentiments of Meyler.
“Teams have done well against them in this campaign and, while they are world champions, we can take confidence out of the drawn away game. Of course, we have got to be set up right to try and stop them but we’ve also to play our game because we can’t get away from what we need to do to qualify.
“We’ll keep it a close game and, if there’s a need to go for it during the match, we’ll do that.” All of the indicators lean towards the probability of Hendrick forming part of a Derby triumvirate in Ireland’s line-up tomorrow.
Cyrus Christie is favourite to step in should Coleman‘s fitness battle fail whilst the absence of Marc Wilson and Ciaran Clark gives Richard Keogh a direct shot at partnering John O’Shea in central defence.
“If I get the chance to play I’ll do everything to be ready and that’s all you can do as a professional,” said Keogh.
“Our destiny is our own hands. Before the two wins last month, it wasn’t but now we’ve got to finish the job off.”
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