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'It's not being in and around the lads, it's literally days on end on your own'

Ireland’s Robbie Brady is relieved to be back playing after a difficult few months.

Robbie Brady (file pic).
Robbie Brady (file pic).
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

- Paul Fennessy reports from Abbotstown

THERE HAVE NOT been too many positives for Martin O’Neill and the Ireland squad in recent months after a couple of disappointing Nations League results, but the return of Robbie Brady is one reason to be optimistic. 

The 26-year-old suffered serious knee damage in a match with Leicester last December and has only recent returned to action following a long period of a rehabilitation.

“I had a couple of minor setbacks throughout pre-season and then over the last couple of months, but I’ve got all that out of the way now and I’ve felt stronger as the weeks have gone on and I’m feeling in a good place now,” Brady told reporters at today’s press conference.

“It was mentally tough more than physically. It’s a lot of time on your own and a lot of time to look and pick apart things.

“But it’s just one of those things. It’s done with now, I’m back and touch wood, I won’t have another one like it.”

The Dubliner, widely regarded as one of Ireland’s best players at Euro 2016, has been forced to sit back and watch as the team have struggled in recent months.

Brady, however, is positive that the situation is improving as the team undergoes a transitional phase.

“It’s always tough when you’re not playing. It’s tougher when you know you can’t affect it in any way I’m not able to play and it’s not by choice.

There have been some difficult games and the big transition has been tough at times — such a large number of players had left with a lot of new lads coming in — and it will take time to gel, like a lot of others have said.

“But I feel as if we’re getting there now. Everyone is getting to know each other that bit better and each trip is getting that bit better, so please God, a couple of good results this week.”

Brady has played a number of positions for Ireland in the past, including midfield, left wing and full-back, but he insists he will be happy to play wherever the manager picks him for the upcoming clashes against Northern Ireland and Denmark. Despite sporadic game time at club level of late, he also believes he would be physically capable of playing two full matches in the space of four days for his country if necessary.

“It’s a little bit different at international level, but I played a 23s game on the Monday and then played 90 against Chelsea on the Saturday a couple of weeks ago,” he says.

“I’ve been training for the last couple of months fully with some games. I haven’t started the last couple at club level, but come on in the last 25 or 30 and I feel good, so I think I will be more than ready to play two if needed.”

The Burnley star’s long-awaited return to Premier League action turned out to be a day to forget. In contrast with last season where the club finished an impressive seventh, they have struggled in the new campaign and currently find themselves one point off the relegation zone in 15th. Brady’s first game back against Chelsea illustrated the team’s weaknesses, as they were beaten 4-0.

“It was difficult, probably one of the worst I’ve been on the end of,” he explains. “They were very good on the day and we weren’t quite as good as we could have been. It was a tough one, I was sort of thrown straight back into the deep end.

“But I think that’s the way to do it if you are going to go back in, to go back in and know what to expect week in, week out.

“Chelsea were excellent on the day, but I felt good, I still felt right to the end I had energy to keep going, so I’ve no worries about the fitness side of things.”

While disappointed at the result, Brady was simply relieved to be back on the pitch after a testing couple of months.

Obviously, there are ups and downs throughout the thing. As soon as you get back on the grass, you almost feel you’re ready. I was probably a little bit giddy at times to say I was fit.

“But as the weeks have gone on, I’ve realised [the work that needs to be done]. You get back playing, they measure everything nowadays, you’re hitting your high speeds, you’re getting your regular numbers and then you start to feel better. The more training and the more games I’ve played, the better I’ve felt. I’ve got a few under my belt now and I’m feeling good. 

“I’m not used to the rehabs, I had periods in the past when I was extremely fit, so it’s just getting your head around it, it’s not being in and around the lads, it’s literally days on end on your own.

“I missed the team bonding sort of thing, the togetherness of it all. It’s mentally tough at times. You’re desperate to play, but you’ve got a long period ahead of yourselves. Once you get your head around the physical side of things, you know what you have to do getting back, so I’d probably say the mental side of things is harder than the physical [side] coming back from an injury like this.”

Richard Keogh Richard Keogh, pictured training earlier, paid tribute to Brady at today's press conference. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Richard Keogh is one player who is delighted to see Brady back. Speaking alongside him at today’s press conference, the Derby defender paid tribute to his international team-mate.

Just seeing Robbie back in the squad has given everyone a lift. He’s obviously a quality player, but not just that, a really big character for us. He’s a really funny guy, so we’ve missed him around the squad and to get him back has been a big boost for everyone.

“I’m pleased for him, because I’ve seen how hard he’s worked in his rehab to get himself back fit after a really serious injury.

“He’s scored some great goals for us at important moments and you are going to miss a player of that quality, so it’s great to have him back.

“You see in football nowadays a lot of games are decided by set-plays for and against. Obviously we have got great quality on the ball now with Rob and a few others and we have got some lads who want to attack it.

“In any game from a set-play, you have got to control the ball, so we want to try to be as effective as we can from them and when Robbie puts in that sort of quality, it gives everyone a chance.”

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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