Ex-League of Ireland defender relishes making long-awaited international debut aged 27

Former St Pat’s and Shamrock Rovers defender Enda Stevens made his Ireland debut against the USA.

WITH MUCH OF the spotlight focussed on the goalscoring exploits of Graham Burke and Alan Judge in the aftermath of last night’s friendly win against the United States, another huge milestone might have went unnoticed.

Enda Stevens comes on for Shane Duffy Enda Stevens comes on in place of Shane Duffy on Saturday. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Sheffield United defender Enda Stevens entered the fray with just 13 minutes remaining at the Aviva Stadium. But that fact won’t matter one iota to the former UCD, St Pat’s and Shamrock Rovers defender, who came on in place of Shane Duffy.

Now flying high at Sheffield United, Stevens has had to bide his time for his first senior international cap, with Saturday’s 2-1 win marking a magnificent achievement — earning his Ireland debut aged 27.

Goals from Burke and Judge turned a 1-0 half-time deficit into a positive win in Dublin, with much of the night’s plaudits rightly falling to John O’Shea, who made his 118th and final appearance for Ireland.

Making his own international debut when one of Ireland’s greatest defenders made his exit was a special feeling, Stevens said afterwards.

Pat Flynn and Enda Stevens Stevens in action for St Patrick's Athletic in 2009. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“It’s brilliant, especially to get the win because we wanted for him to go out on a high,” the defender said of O’Shea. “I think he’ll be even more delighted that we won the game.”

Stevens first moved to Aston Villa in 2012, making seven appearances, before a host of loan moves through the divisions at Notts County, Doncaster Rovers and Northampton Town.

He succeeded in winning a League Two title while at Portsmouth 12 months ago, being named in the Skybet League Two Team of the Year for 2016/17, before spending last season playing Championship football with Sheffield.

Consistent form helping the Blades finish 10th earned Stevens an international call-up from Martin O’Neill. He reflected that his time spent in the international camp had been a positive experience.

“It’s been class. I met up going to Turkey, and the lads were spot on straight away. You’re just embedded in. It’s just one big group and it has been really enjoyable.

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“I can only impress when I’m on the football pitch, so hopefully I’ve done a little bit of that tonight. Who knows what way it’s going to be, but I’ve just got to focus on my club football now.”

Hull City v Sheffield United - Sky Bet Championship The Dubliner helped Sheffield to a 10th place finish in the Championship last season. Source: Getty Images

Asked about the potential of making more appearances in the green shirt, the defender said coming on in the latter stages of last night’s win with 77 minutes on the clock did not have a negative impact on his future prospects.

“I don’t think you can really go by that because he [O’Neill] sees you everyday in training,” he said.

“It probably comes down to training to get in the first team to play. Hopefully by impressing in training it will bring you into the games.

“It’s been a long road, you could say, but that comes down to me and my performances and my choices. Over the last three years, it’s been the most enjoyable time that I’ve had.

“I’ll be relaxing now for a week or two, then get back into it and hopefully hit the ground running with Sheffield United.”

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