Midfielder returns to Ireland squad after nine-year absence
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Midfielder returns to Ireland squad after nine-year absence

MARTIN O’NEILL has ended a nine-year wait for Stephen Gleeson to make a return to the Republic of Ireland set-up.

The Birmingham midfielder, who is a cousin of regular international Glenn Whelan, was recalled to the national side for this weekend’s games against Switzerland and Slovakia at the Aviva Stadium.

His last cap came under former Ireland boss Steve Staunton during a post-season trip to the USA, where he featured against Ecuador and Bolivia as an 18-year-old Wolves player in 2007.

After those two appearances, Gleeson was frozen out of the senior international scene for nearly nine years, during which time he went out on several loans to lower league clubs.

After five years at MK Dons, Gleeson moved to Birmingham where he has become an established senior player and, at the age of 27, has finally earned a recall.

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Gleeson playing against Ecuador aged 18 [Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Donall Farmer] Gleeson playing against Ecuador aged 18 [Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Donall Farmer]
“I never stopped believing in myself, even dropping down the leagues,” said the Dubliner.

“I knew I had the ability to one day get back here. It’s eight or nine years since my last cap and I think I’ve been playing well at my club over the last eight months.”

Gleeson suggested he was ‘overawed’ by the experience of being called up at 18 and believes he will be better prepared to deal with the occasion should he get a chance to impress this time around.

“The last time I didn’t take it all in,” he said. “I was probably a bit young and overawed. Coming in here I have the belief I belong in this squad and I have the ability to give something to this squad.

“I’m taking a lot more in this time and I’ve definitely taken a lot more experience from the first time.”

Ireland play Switzerland on Good Friday before hosting Slovakia next Tuesday, with both games taking place at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

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