Ryan Byrne/INPHO Nathan Collins in action against Armenia.
col' to arms
Collins hoping Armenia defeat can add 'fuel to the fire' for clash with Ukraine
Though it was a miserable night, the 21-year-old defender impressed on his competitive debut in Yerevan.

IT’S BECOMING A TREND: young Irish players forced to balance great individual nights against the team’s struggles. Gavin Bazunu, for instance, made his senior debut in the home defeat to Luxembourg, and acquitted himself so well in a fraught post-match press conference that the FAI use the footage when they are doing media training with underage players. 

Now step forward Nathan Collins, who made his competitive senior debut for Ireland in Yerevan, and emerged after the game to address another wretched 1-0 defeat. 

“We started off slow, myself included, but I thought we grew into it as a collective and had a big end to the first half”, reflected the 21-year-old defender. “I thought we were in control. We came out second half, started slowly again and never really got going.

“The feeling at half-time was positive. We knew we started slow, we accepted that and moved on. We knew we had a few good chances and while they didn’t go in we were positive about the second half. We just never got going.”

Collins made an uncertain start – dispossessed on the edge of his own box and then getting Shane Duffy into the referee’s notebook with a sloppy square pass – but he grew comfortably into the game, a regal interception on the halfway line at the first-half midway’s point the signal he had sloughed off his early jitters. 

“I’m not sure why I had a slow start but I got it out of the way. I knew there was a long game to play. I did part of my job but, listen, as a collective and on personal note it wasn’t good enough. Honestly, I think we can do a lot better.”

The result is a rough introduction for Collins to international football, coming immediately after the anguish of relegation from the Premier League with Burnley. 

“I had a week away and club football was on my mind constantly so I needed this”, said Collins of linking up with Ireland. “The lads have been good to me, they have helped me out and I needed to just play football, to take my mind off club football and concentrate on this. It has been good for me.

“It is a different game of course. In club football you are not going to travel seven hours to play a game. But it is a game of football, it is the same thing, it is about the fundamentals, doing the basics and today we just didn’t portray them as much as we should have done.”

Collins wasn’t drawn on his club future: he has proven himself at Premier League level and Burnley’s financial situation is such that they may be forced to cash in on their most valuable players, a bracket in which Collins finds himself. “ I’ve said that I don’t want to talk about that around the international football”, he said. “We have four games, or three games now, and that is what is on my mind.” 

Most immediately on his mind is the visit of Ukraine to Dublin on Wednesday night. 

“I don’t know if it will affect confidence because we know what we can do”, said Collins when asked about any potential lingering scars from Yerevan. “It could nearly be good for us as it will add fuel to the fire. We need a reaction and we have said it in there. Whether we show it on Wednesday, we know we need one.

“You have seen us play the likes of Portugal and Belgium and they are a high standard.

“We know and everyone knows that if we play our game we can go and beat anyone.”

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