PA Seamus Coleman, during an Irish training session last year.
# Back in the picture
'I can’t explain how much I have missed it' - Coleman desperate to end lengthy Irish absence
The captain hasn’t played for his country since October 2019, but wants that to end in Serbia tomorrow night.

STEPHEN KENNY HAS named Mark Travers as his starting ‘keeper for tomorrow night’s World Cup qualifier against Serbia but otherwise spent his pre-game press conference fending off questions about his team selection. He didn’t leave clues anywhere: the fact Seamus Coleman also appeared for media duties doesn’t guarantee his appearance tomorrow. 

“I don’t know the team yet, so I’m not sure about that”, said Coleman. “It’s the duty of the captain to come to these press conferences, so I’m here but I can’t answer that question unfortunately.” 

Coleman is desperate for a return, however, having not played for Ireland since October 2019, his last appearance marred by a red card in a 2-0 Euro qualifier to Switzerland in Geneva. 

While Matt Doherty has hitherto preferred at right-back by Stephen Kenny, injury cost Coleman involvement appearances in games across October and November, and this has been a longer stint of absence than that served when recuperating from his horror leg break of 2017. 

“I can’t explain how much I have missed it. It’s been something that’s been on my mind, I love playing for my country. I can’t even remember when the last one was, it might have been the sending off.

“It’s been a very long time. I was injured for most of the other selections, I was doing quite well at club level, but I picked up a niggle before we met up, which is disappointing. But to get here, to be with the lads and with the staff is an amazing feeling, but ultimately getting back out there and putting on the green shirt is what we always want and is what I want tomorrow, so we will see what happens.”

Coleman will be 34 by the time the World Cup gets underway in Qatar, but says he isn’t approaching these games conscious of this being his last chance to lead Ireland to the biggest competition of them all. 

“My frame of mind is I want Ireland to get to the World Cup. My frame of mind is never ‘My last chance this, my last chance that’. I want to fight for my country. When that ends, that ends. It’s never a case of it being, ‘Ah, this could be my last one.’ I want a World Cup for the lads that are here, for the fans at home, whether it be the last or the second-last, whatever the case may be, I don’t care. I just want a World Cup for the country.

“I’ve had my Euros, I’ve had my caps behind me and I’m not thinking that this could the last one. That doesn’t enter my mind whatsoever. There’s a biggest picture than this being Seamus Coleman’s last chance at a World Cup. Definitely.” 

With Travers set to make his senior competitive debut tomorrow night, Coleman has no doubts as to his quality. 

“We have been blessed with Darren Randolph for the last number of years. He has been so consistent and he will be a miss. On the other hand, these young lads who have come in, all while Darren has been here, we’ve always had some good young goalkeepers coming into train, Mark being one and now Gavin [Bazunu] being another. 

“They are unbelievable, honestly. They are really, really good goalkeepers and very confident in themselves as well. You can see some of the clips of their training sessions, and some of the saves these lads pull off is incredible. I have no doubts.

“I think they need to enjoy it and embrace it – whichever one of them it is – and let the senior lads take a bit of the pressure of what the game is, and allow those lads to go out and enjoy it. You’re playing for your country and that’s what you want as a kid. I think it’s important they know they are good players and enjoy it. And after that there’s no need to tell them how important the game is, just go out and enjoy it.” 

Coleman will hope this is a game he can enjoy, rather than another to be endured from the touchline. 

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