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'I hear the outside noise' - Criticism not affecting Hendrick ahead of milestone game

The midfielder is in line for his fiftieth cap on Thursday, and is glad to be playing in his favoured position.

JEFF HENDRICK HAS played 49 times for Ireland and would be forgiven if feels he has had to fend off the same question as often. 

jeff-hendrick Jeff Hendrick speaks to the press. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

You were so good for Ireland at Euro 2016, Jeff, why have you not always replicated that form since? 

Speaking today, ahead of Thursday’s Euro 2020 qualifier with Switzerland, he faced it again. 

“I’ve said this before, I hear the outside noise and people saying they haven’t seen me since the Euros. Everyone has their own opinion, but I did play a lot of games not in the position I played in at the Euros.

“For me, I try to give everything for the country, but it’s difficult when you’re playing in a different position to what you’re naturally good at, I’d say.

“I try to do my best for the team,. But like I said, it was tough. I was playing on the right, at times I was nearly up front as well, so I was just trying to adapt and just do what I can for the team.” 

Under McCarthy thus far, Hendrick has been picked in the same position – in front of Glenn Whelan and beside Conor Hourihane in a midfield trio. 

“The manager said it to me when he came in”, revealed Hendrick. “He said, ‘I know you’re a central midfielder’, so I’ve played there. I’ve played there in the games under him and in training as well and I’m enjoying it. That’s where I want to be and he’s playing me there.”

Hendrick has been more involved in key moments in this campaign thus far – he scored the decisive goal in the opening game at the foot of Gibraltar’s rock, and helped to set the tone for the aggressive home performance against Georgia by showing a willingness to sprint beyond striker David McGoldrick. 

It is something he has worked on with the management team. 

“Yeah, TC [Terry Connor] as well, and Robbie [Keane]. They know I’m the type of player who wants to play in the middle and get on the ball. The attributes I have, and the size of me, I should be getting into the box and getting on the end of things.

“That’s something we have been working on in training, and obviously I got the goal in the first game but in others, like Georgia at home, I was breaking into the box as well. But for sloppy passing I could have set him [McGoldrick] up for a goal, but these things happen.” 

Selection in McCarthy’s 24-man squad for this game relied on banking minutes at club level, hence why Shane Long is out, as his only Premier League appearance of the season amounted to the final half-hour of Southampton’s draw with Manchester United last weekend. 

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That’s more League action than Hendrick has mustered this season, however. The midfielder played the last ten minutes of a draw with Wolves – otherwise he hasn’t yet made it off the bench. 

McCarthy said yesterday he has no concerns over Hendrick’s readiness – citing a 90-minute appearance against Sunderland in the League Cup and a separate, behind-closed-doors game – and the fact he said he is “loyal” to those who have served him well in the past point to Hendrick’s continued inclusion. 

callum-robinson-alan-judge-conor-hourihane-and-jeff-hendrick-arrive Hendrick arrives for training along with Conor Hourihane, Alan Judge and Callum Robinson. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The player himself isn’t concerned about his slipping down the pecking order at Burnley. 

“I’m not really concerned, it’s still early in the season. I probably played the most minutes in pre-season out of our whole squad, I was playing in every game which was really good for me.

“Obviously he [Sean Dyche] is sticking with the lads who started the end of last season, and did really well and kept us in the League, pretty much. He’s showing faith with them and they’ve got off to a good start.

“I’m fine, I’ve been working extra hard and doing extra every day, just to get the manager’s eye to get back into the team. In the last two weeks I played the full game in the Cup, I played a Ressies game on the training ground and I’ve been making sure I was ready for those games.” 

If Hendrick is picked, it will be his 50th cap, and he remembers his first. “Yes, Poland at home. I didn’t know if I was going to play or get on, and it was brilliant to have the game in Dublin. I think I had to order 30 tickets for that game.” 

His first game at Lansdowne Road as a fan was one of Mick’s finest hours – the 1-0 win over Holland, thanks to Jason McAteer’s goal. 18 years on, Hendrick is on the cusp of a milestone of his own. 

“I always say as a kid, my dream was to pull on the Ireland jersey and play for my country and all going well, hopefully I can get to 50.

“It is a big thing to me and to my family.” 

Murray Kinsella joins Gavan Casey, Ryan Bailey and Sean Farrell with their immediate reaction to Ireland’s 31-man squad for the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Gavin Cooney

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