Revealing interview with young midfielder.
By Colin Young
The Republic of Ireland are on a journey into the unknown.
The players, and press, have had an unenviable fifteen-hour trek in all, including four hours in Frankfurt airport for the press and a slightly quicker stop in Tallinn, Estonia for the Irish squad.
The eventual destination was Kazakhstan – a country the size of western Europe, the ninth largest in the world and largest land-locked country.
They are in its new capital Astana, with its even newer stadium, plastic pitch and all.
It is a long, long way from Sunderland but one man guaranteed to enjoy every moment of it is Sunderland’s David Meyler.
On Saturday afternoon, on his way to the game at Swansea, Meyler got the call from the FAI’s Mary O’Byrne to say he had got the nod to replace Everton’s young midfielder Darron Gibson.
Meyler, with three sub appearances under his belt, was perhaps surprised to get the call. But fewer players have deserved such recognition after a long road back from two career-threatening injuries.
“I was called in two years ago but suffered two setbacks and had 20 months out, I have waited so long for the opportunity to play for my country and to be involved in this team. I have waited a long time but I'm delighted.
“You learn about mental toughness from suffering setbacks. And to work that bit harder than everyone else just to get that bit of fitness.
“I went to America for two weeks and worked on the strength of my knees and they couldn't be stronger at the moment thanks to all the medical staff at Sunderland.
“When I first came back I was banned from tackling and used to get fined every time I tackled. So that cost me a few bob because of the way I play.”
Meyler was linked with moves away from the Stadium of Light during the summer, but Martin O’Neill has kept the former Cork City midfielder, who was signed by his boyhood hero Roy Keane.
“There was talk, but it's just rumours in the paper,” he said. “I haven't sat down and spoke to the manager about it.
“Obviously it's up to myself. If I want to get into the team every week I have to push myself and work harder than everyone else around me and do better than everyone else around me and at the moment that's what I'm aiming to do.
“When a new manager comes in everyone starts with a clean slate and you have to go out and work as hard as you can. Monday to Friday to prepare for Saturday and if you get the opportunity to play on Saturday you give it everything you've got.
“It was hard at the start as I wasn't fully fit but I have worked extremely hard.
“I never once thought about leaving Sunderland. We have a fantastic manager in Martin O’Neill, and I am hoping he can improve me as a player and get me to the highest level possible.”