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Evan Treacy/INPHO Joel Bagan pictured at today's press conference.
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Ireland U21 international grateful for departing Mick McCarthy's assistance
Joel Bagan has been getting plenty of game time with Cardiff in the Championship this season.

IT’S BEEN an eventful few months for Joel Bagan.

Back in August, it was confirmed that the full-back had switched international allegiance from Scotland, the team he represented at U16 level, to Ireland.

Back in September, he made his Irish U21 debut in the 1-1 draw with Luxembourg.

Born in Basingstoke, England, the 20-year-old qualifies to play for the Boys in Green through his grandmother, who hails from Glanmire in Cork.

It took a while for the paperwork to be sorted and a dislocated shoulder further delayed his progress, but Bagan is now delighted to be in camp and looking forward to two crucial upcoming home qualifiers against Italy on Friday and Sweden next Tuesday.

“Jim [Crawford] had a few phone calls with Mick McCarthy about bringing me in and then I came in for the first two qualifying games against Bosnia and Luxembourg. 

“I’ve always wanted to play international football so to get that call-up was great.”

The campaign has not gone entirely smoothly so far. Decent wins against Bosnia and Luxembourg (home) have been tarnished somewhat by a draw to Luxembourg (away) and a loss in Montenegro.

Bagan, like many others in the squad, is still relatively new to the international setup and admits it will take time for the team to gel, adding: “We’ve got a few new players in for these two games. I think there’ll be a few changes in everything. There can be injuries and certain things can happen. But it is a great group and I’ve settled in really well. So I don’t think it’ll be too much of a problem for anyone.”

The youngster has also experienced a few setbacks with Cardiff at club level. He has racked up 10 appearances in the Championship, though a series of bad results recently cost manager Mick McCarthy his job.

The club currently sit in 20th place in the table, just above the relegation zone, and Bagan acknowledges it has been a tough start but has been encouraged by a recent improvement that saw the side claim their first victory in 11 games on Saturday.

“We started the season well and we were doing alright but yeah, we didn’t go on a great run, but last two or three games, we’ve started to turn it around.”

Having given him a run of matches at first-team level, Bagan was understandably sad to see the former Ireland manager depart the Welsh club.

“Mick has been great with me. Obviously the link with Ireland, he’s helped me out with that. And from the first game of the season in the Championship, he chucked me in and I got a good run of games, so I’ve got a lot to thank him for.

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“I’ve really enjoyed every game I’ve played for Cardiff and Ireland.”

Bagan says international football feels different to the club game. It is less physical and “more tactical” at times.

While he wasn’t familiar with most in the Irish setup upon first linking up with the squad, he already knows Irish team-mate Mark McGuinness well, given that he too plays with Cardiff, while he got to know both Will Smallbone and Will Ferry during his time at underage level at Southampton.

Leaving the Premier League club in 2018 to join Cardiff felt like a huge decision at the time, but it is one that appears to be paying off for Bagan, who made his professional debut last year and has gone from strength to strength since then.

“It was massive. I was moving away from my family, living in digs, I think it was the best thing that could have happened for me going to Cardiff. Things have probably gone better than expected from when I first joined. So I’ve really enjoyed my time at Cardiff.”

And did leaving home force Bagan to do a bit of growing up?

“Definitely. You’re away from your family, different country, meeting new people, so you have to change.” 

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