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'He's first class' - Ireland's Cunningham impresses in first game since August

‘It’s all positive at the minute,’ the Preston defender said afterwards.

Greg Cunningham (file pic).
Greg Cunningham (file pic).
Image: EMPICS Sport

IRELAND DEFENDER GREG Cunningham made an impressive return to action last night as Preston ended 2017 on a high with a 1-0 away win.

It wasn’t until the 90th minute that club captain Tom Clarke broke the deadlock against Cardiff City, securing three points and stretching his side’s unbeaten run to nine games.

Back in August, Cunningham underwent surgery on a knee injury and the club confirmed that ‘an extended period’ on the sidelines lay ahead. The news came just days after an Ireland call-up.

The 26-year-old won the last of his four senior caps back in 2013, and had been named in the squad for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Gerogia and Serbia.

Obviously a huge blow at the time, Cunning put all of that behind him last night with a solid run-out.

“I didn’t think I’d last that long too be honest!” he told the club’s official website after managing 82 minutes before he was replaced by Calum Woods.

“But I gave everything I’ve got. I’ve been working hard on the training field and I think the adrenaline got me through.

“You’re just focusing on the game; I got to half-time which gives me chance to recharge my batteries and I just managed to see it out.

“It’s all positive at the minute. Everybody’s coming back and fighting for each other and we know where we want to be come the first weekend in May.”

He added:

“Half the season is done with and we’ve got a nice win tonight which sets us up nicely for the New Year. It’s good to get us all back fit and the competition for places is fierce.

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Cardiff City v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship - Cardiff City Stadium Cunningham in action last night. Source: Nick Potts

“I’ve been working very hard and it was touch and go whether I’d be available around the Christmas period. I was obviously on the bench against Barnsley and it’s good to be back in the mix again.

“You can’t replicate matchdays – travelling with the boys. It was a nice journey today and nice to play and hopefully I can keep my place and stay fit until the end of the season.”

And Preston boss Alex Neil was surely pleased to see Cunningham back in action.

“He’s first class,” he said afterwards.

“When I took him off I asked how he was and he said he was fresh for Monday and that just sums him up.”

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