Jamie McGrath would have laughed if he had learned at the start of the year that he would now play senior international football for the Republic of Ireland.
The 25-year-old midfielder was plying his trade in the League of Ireland with Dundalk when Scottish Premiership side St Mirren came calling in January last year, and his rise since has seen him elevated to the top ranks by Ireland boss Stephen Kenny.
McGrath freely admits he was surprised at how quickly his career has progressed and relishes the opportunity to test himself at senior international level after making his debut as a substitute against Andorra in June.
He said: “It was a long term dream. I probably didn’t expect it to happen so quickly. When I got the green light in the summer, I was over the moon. My goal was to try to stay on the team and I was lucky to have done so.
“I just had to keep working hard and hopefully do it at club level and see where it got me.
“If you had told me earlier this year that I would be here now, I probably would have laughed. But I always had the determination to try to go as far as possible.
“It went well this year, so I hope it can continue.”
Kenny, who worked with McGrath during their time at Dundalk, was convinced he would fit into his new-look team and turned out to be correct.
He got his chance after scoring 17 remarkable goals for his club last season, and Kenny had no qualms about throwing him into the starting line-up for the hopelessly unfortunate 2-1 defeat of the World Cup qualifying at the Portugal in which the Republic led 1-0 with one minute of normal time remaining.
He started again against Serbia three days later and after being used as a substitute in Saturday’s 3-0 qualifying win in Azerbaijan, he made the eleven for Tuesday’s 4-0 friendly win over host Qatar. world Cup.
McGrath said: “It was only my first time in the group in June and everyone was amazing welcoming me, all the senior boys. I cannot talk about them enough.
“Even when I made my [full] debuts in Portugal, they were constantly in my ear. It’s a big group to integrate. Since I got involved, I loved every minute of it. “
Despite all the confidence in him, McGrath was unable to gain the upper hand when, after being tripped by defender Karim Boudiaf, Ireland received a penalty in the 13th minute.
Ten of his goals last season and both this time around were scored on the spot, but with Callum Robinson in great shape and on his way to a hat-trick, his polite request met with a negative response.
McGrath said with a smile, “I had a brief chat with Callum, but he was on a mission so I didn’t want to stop him. Fortunately, he entered. “