Robbie Brady is desperate to put a testing year behind him as he prepares to make his first Republic of Ireland appearance since his World Cup dream went up in smoke 12 months ago.
Brady was part of the team which travelled back from Denmark in November last year with a foothold in their play-off showdown with the Danes after a 0-0 draw in Copenhagen.
But their hopes of a trip to Russia were torn apart by a 5-1 defeat in the return in Dublin and worse was to follow for Burnley midfielder Brady within weeks when he suffered a knee injury which sidelined him until the end of October this year.
Three games into his comeback with the Clarets, he will hope to pull on the green shirt for the first time since that dark night at the Aviva Stadium against Northern Ireland on Wednesday, and he cannot wait to do so with a Nations League trip to Denmark looming four days later.
Brady said: “That hurt that bit more. We’ve made hard work for ourselves before and we made hard work of that one.
“I thought we started quite well in the Denmark game, but then to be turned over the way we were at home…
“That was my last game. I sort of left on a sour note, so hopefully now that I’m back and the lads have gelled that bit better, hopefully we can put some good results together.
“You just have to learn. It was a very disappointing night and we’ll be looking forward to putting it right over the next few games and next couple of campaigns.”
Brady’s misfortune has hampered his efforts to build up the reputation he forged on the international stage at the Euro 2016 finals in France, where he and Seamus Coleman, who also had a lengthy spell on the sidelines with a double leg fracture, were among Ireland’s stand-out performers.
In the last year in particular, the Republic have struggled to reproduce the performances and results which took them to France and the brink of World Cup qualification, although the midfielder insists that cannot be put down simply to their absence.
He said: “It’s part and parcel of football. The squad is going to get injuries. On top of that, the massive change throughout it all probably didn’t help things at the time.
“It’s just one of those things you have to deal with and now that we’re back, we’ll be looking to help the team as much as we can.”
Just to be back out on the training pitch at Abbotstown has put a smile on Brady’s face and made the months of rehabilitation worthwhile.
He said: “It was mentally tough more than physically. It’s a lot of time on your own and a lot of time to look and pick apart things.
“But it’s just one of those things. It’s done with now, I’m back and – touch wood – I won’t have another one like it.”
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