Football/Soccer

David McGoldrick "desperate" to play for Ireland: Stephen Kenny

Republic of Ireland's David McGoldrick is expected to lead the attack against Slovakia tomorrow night

GIVEN his close relationship with former boss Mick McCarthy and the creeping years, David McGoldrick could easily have announced his international retirement – but the Sheffield United striker is “desperate” to play for the Republic of Ireland and is almost certain to lead the attack in tomorrow night's Euro semi-final play-off against Slovakia.

New manager Stephen Kenny admitted he was pleasantly surprised to hear that McGoldrick was keen to remain involved and highlighted the importance of the 32-year-old striker to the Irish cause.

“When I took over, Sheffield United looked like they were going to qualify for Europe, which meant extras games,” said Kenny.

“He's a family man, a good sized family. He's 32, nearly 33. You wonder whether a player would say: ‘I've to focus on my club' because it happens a lot at that age group. But that wasn't what I got from him at all; I got quite the opposite.

“Mick [McCarthy] had him at Ipswich and all of that so… When I took over I was wondering in my own head: Is he going to relax and take a bit of a back seat, focus on club football, particularly with Sheffield United playing in the Premier League. That wasn't the case at all. He was absolutely desperate to play.

He was just so enthusiastic about playing and really, really hungry to play.”

McGoldrick, though, has clocked up just 13 caps over a six-year period with Ireland having made his debut in a friendly against USA in 2014.

He didn't feature much under former manager Martin O'Neill and only resurrected his international career when McCarthy returned to the helm.

Even though he's knocked around the Championship for most of his career, he's shown he can perform at the highest level. On Sunday, he scored a brilliant goal in Sheffield United's 2-1 defeat at Arsenal, his side's first goal in four league outings this season.

McGoldrick missed last month's Nations League opener against Bulgaria with a foot injury but was fit to join the squad for the home defeat to Finland a few days later and showed in the 24 minutes he was afforded what Ireland were missing.

“We've been very dependent on David McGoldrick in the previous campaign,” Kenny said. “When he was missing, we lost the game. He seemed to be a massive loss, we needed to increase our options in that way.”

Former U21 striker Adam Idah started both Bulgaria and Finland games and hasn't started for Norwich City this season. Given the magnitude of tomorrow evening's match, McGoldrick is almost certain to be promoted to the starting line-up in place of Idah.

"People are undecided, 'what sort of player is he?'. I suppose that David has been an adaptable player.

"In a front two he drops off and that's what a 3-5-2 gives you the opportunity of doing. He can link up the play which is one of his best attributes. David can do that with his back to goal and can see key opportunities for other players.

"So he is creative and a provider of opportunities while he also knits the play together.

"He becomes important when he is not there because of what he does. He enhances teams and makes them cohesive. He becomes the focal point and he is streetwise, uses his body well and has a great first touch. He is also aware of the players playing off him.

"Some centre forwards take the ball in, take a touch then lay the ball off and everyone says 'well done' but you've lost the momentum of the move because you have not gone anywhere.

"What David sees is players around him with his peripheral vision. He sees people off him, has delicate touches and players run off him, left and right and he gets players in.”

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Football/Soccer