Seamus Coleman turns 24 today but the Killybegs native is more interested in a start for Ireland against Germany in tomorrow night’s World Cup qualifier at the Aviva than birthday celebrations.
The Everton clubman has been playing in his more natural right-back role in the last month as the Merseyside outfit have stormed to fourth place in the Premier League. And with Giovanni Trapattoni’s regular centre-back pairing of Richard Dunne and Sean St Ledger both absentees through injury, Sunderland’s John O’Shea will move inside from right-back.
That leaves Coleman, who has five international caps but is yet to play a competitive international for his county, and possibly Stephen Kelly and Paul McShane fighting for the No 2 jersey.
“It would be brilliant to get the nod, but you have Stephen Kelly there who has played a lot of times for Ireland and who is at Fulham,” Coleman said. “You have Paul McShane fighting for that position too so it is not going to be easy to get in.”
Coleman endured a troublesome term at Goodison Park last term after suffering a cruciate knee injury in pre-season against Villarreal and a number of other niggles. It meant that when Giovanni Trapattoni named his 23-man squad for Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine, Coleman was not a part.
“It was very disappointing, to be honest,” he said. “Everyone wanted to be picked in the 23, but it wasn’t to be. I watched it at home in the pub in Ireland with all my mates. We were all down in the local pub watching it.
“It was like 2002 again. It was a bit different because you knew the lads. I would rather have been out there, of course.
“Look, these things happen. It was unfortunate. Ireland is a hard team to get into. There’s a lot of good players. I would have liked to play a bit more but I needed to be playing at Everton.”
“Hopefully I will get another chance to get to a major tournament with Ireland. That’s my aim now, my drive, because everyone wants to play in a major tournament for their country.”
Coleman played for Donegal Gaelic footballers up to the U-16 bracket before signing for Sligo Rovers in 2006. This summer, he has been following his county, attending the Ulster final against Down and the All-Ireland semi-final against Cork.
“I’m a massive Donegal fan and keep in touch with the lads, and there’s no happier man to see them win,” he continued.
“They’ve been a big inspiration for everyone in Donegal. Michael Murphy is a great captain and for the young people in Donegal, he’s a great role model, someone to look up to.
“I’m happy as a fan but this is my dream, to be a Premier League footballer and it was probably Michael and the lads’ dream to win an All-Ireland. I’m delighted for them.
“When I came to minor level I had to choose between Sligo and Donegal, so I picked Sligo and I never, ever regretted that decision because I’ve been lucky with the life I picked.
“I get to play in the Premier League and I get to play for my country.
I’m very happy but the lads who play for Donegal deserve a lot of credit because of the work they put in. I’m happy and I’m sure they’re happy as well.”
With a lot of speculation concerning the future of Jim McGuinness, Coleman is of the opinion the Donegal manager could prove to be a success at anything he turns his hand to.
“He has done a great job and hopefully if he doesn’t make a move to one of the clubs, he can win another All-Ireland,” he said. “I’d say that would be his ambition.
“You can see the love he has for football and sport, it’s something else and it would be great to see if he got a role with one of the football clubs, he could turn his hand to it no problem.
“It’s the type of man he is. I’d rather he came to Everton! I’ll have a word with him! Obviously he’s got a good eye for tactics as well, I know it’s Gaelic but I’m sure he could turn his hand to soccer because he’s done a great job for Donegal.
“I think two years ago there’s no way Donegal would have won the All-Ireland without him, he’s changed all the players. He’s got something special about him.
“Playing Gaelic, I would have come across him a lot. He was over at a game last year or two years ago.I saw him in the summer time down in his local town too. I spoke to Jim a few times and honestly he’s a great, great man.
“He invited me to training and that kind of thing. He’s a great man and I’ve great respect for him.”
Whatever happens tomorrow night, Coleman will be keeping an eye on the score at the Showgrounds on Saturday afternoon, where his former employers Sligo Rovers have an opportunity to the win the Airtricity League Premier Division. Second-placed St Patrick’s Athletic stand in their way.
“I think they’ll do it,” Coleman said. “It would be great to see. Sligo’s a great town, a great soccer town and they love it up there.
“I have great connections from my time there. My family still go to some of the games so I’d love to see them win. I think they deserve it for the football they’ve played over the last two years.”