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Sammie Szmodics hoping to make Republic of Ireland debut at third time of asking

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 19 Mar 2024

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Sammie Szmodics is desperate to make up for lost time as he hopes for a Republic of Ireland debut at the third time of asking.

The in-form Blackburn striker has been drafted in by interim head coach John O’Shea after twice having to pull out of squads under previous boss Stephen Kenny through injury and personal reasons, and could make his first senior appearance in Saturday’s friendly against Belgium in Dublin.

That would end a frustrating wait for the 28-year-old, who qualifies for Ireland through his paternal grandmother, after Kenny did not call him up for last November’s camp after he had pulled out the previous month because of a family issue.

Szmodics, who has scored 27 goals for his club so far this season – 21 of them in the Sky Bet Championship – told a press conference: “I was disappointed for the November camp that I didn’t get the call, but ultimately, it’s the manager’s decision.

“I thought I was doing enough at club level, but he chose to go with other people. The past is the past and I’ve got to focus on this camp and future camps and I’ve got to take the opportunity with both hands.

“With the form and amount of games I’ve played and seeing others make their debut, it’s made me hungry. I am excited to hopefully get it on the weekend.

“When I got the phone call from John (O’Shea), it was a no-brainer for me.”

Szmodics arrived at Ireland’s Abbotstown training base having unwittingly found himself the target of a verbal onslaught from Hungary boss Marco Rossi.

The striker is also eligible to represent Hungary through his grandfather and Rossi suggested his camp had leaked an offer of discussions over his international future in an effort to earn a Republic call-up.

A bemused Szmodics said: “It was all nonsense, really. My grandad was Hungarian – that’s where the surname comes from.

“It is just something that never interested me. Their manager has come out and said what he has said about me. I am not really sure where it came from as I have never spoken to anyone from that country.

“I am not really sure where it has come from because I am fully focused on playing for Ireland. I sorted my passport for Ireland years ago and I’ve been fully focused on getting into the camps and getting into the squads and hopefully and luckily I’ll do it this weekend.”

Szmodics is not the only potential debutant in the squad with Lyon defender Jake O’Brien and Middlesbrough midfielder Finn Azaz having received first senior call-ups for games against the Belgians and Switzerland next Tuesday.

Ireland’s first fixture since Kenny left his role in November – with the process of appointing his successor currently ongoing – will see them go head-to-head with FIFA’s fourth-ranked team at a time when they have slipped to 62nd place in the list, having won just six of the 29 competitive games they played under his charge.

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