Jamie McGrath has met Republic of Ireland for the first time, determined to once again impress manager Stephen Kenny.
The 24-year-old midfielder has scored 17 goals for Scottish Premiership side St Mirren this season to rocket up the international rankings ahead of friendlies against Andorra and Hungary.
However, he cut his teeth in the Irish League game, where he was signed at the age of 20 by Dundalk boss Kenny, who has proven to be a tough but tough master of tasks. which played a central role in its development.
McGrath said: “He was probably tough on me because he thought I was playing it safe and not showing my true expression, playing with freedom.
“I remember my freshman year in particular, he was constantly on my case, coming in at halftime and it was, ‘Stop passing the ball back, stop passing to the side, I want you to give the balloon, I want you to try things’.
“So yeah, I’m very grateful for the way he handled me, this first year in particular. I probably took a season to go to bed.
“I arrived in a locker room full of winners, great physical men, so I had to adapt to that side. After my first season, I took off from there, we had a fantastic 2018. But I really enjoyed working with him. “
McGrath decided to leave Ireland for Scotland in January of last year – a decision supported by Kenny when the two crossed paths in a wedding – and has prospered ever since.
Unlike many of his international teammates plying their trade in England, he regularly plays football and recommends life in Scotland.
He said: “There were a few teams in the south and after talking to the managers I wasn’t getting a good vibe from any of them, to be honest. I wasn’t sure I was playing regularly.
“It was like they were taking a chance on me because I was free. Speaking with St Mirren’s gaffer (Jim Goodwin), he really sold him to me.
“He basically said to me, ‘I hope you’re only here for a few months or a season or two and using it as a stepping stone.’ Fortunately, it has worked for me so far. I truly appreciate it.”
While Kenny will rule the rule over his new signings in Spain, they will also have the chance to learn what it means to play for their country by rubbing shoulders with the mainstays of the squad, including injured skipper Seamus Coleman.
Kenny said: “Seamus won’t be worthy of Andorra, but he’s trying to get in shape for the game against Hungary and he’s come as captain to lead, and I think that says a lot about him.
“The three players with the most caps – Seamus, James McClean and Shane Duffy – are here and it shows what it means for them to play for Ireland. They are never there. They always have a huge desire to play for Ireland. ‘be here.
“They have a huge and massive desire and with so many young players coming in they have to have this understanding of these players and what it means to them, that sense of Irish, and that is essential for their development and for players to understand. this. “