Jeff Hendrick is confident he can return to his best form for the Republic of Ireland as he prepares to win his 50th cap.
The Burnley midfielder could complete his half-century in Thursday night’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Switzerland at the Aviva Stadium, having struggled in recent years to reproduce the form which so caught the eye at the Euro 2016 finals in France.
However, Hendrick insists there are mitigating factors for his apparent difficulties and current boss Mick McCarthy has taken a significant step towards addressing them.
The 27-year-old said: “I hear the outside noise and people saying they haven’t seen me since the Euros. Everyone has their own opinion, but I did play a lot of games not in the position I played in at the Euros.
“For me, I try to give everything for the country, but it’s difficult when you’re playing in a different position to what you’re naturally good at, I’d say.
“I try to do my best for the team, but like I said, it was tough. I was playing on the right, at times I was nearly up front as well, so I was just trying to adapt and just do what I can for the team.
“The manager said it to me when he came in. He said, ‘I know you’re a central midfielder’, so I’ve played there. I’ve played there in the games under him and in training as well and I’m enjoying it.”
Hendrick made his Ireland debut as a substitute in a 2-0 friendly victory over Poland under then manager Giovanni Trapattoni in February 2013 and has since established himself as a regular under successor Martin O’Neill and now McCarthy.
That has been a dream for a man who was among the crowd as a 10-year-old when the Republic famously beat Holland 1-0 in a World Cup qualifier at Lansdowne Road in September 2001.
He said: “I always say as a kid my dream was to pull on the Ireland jersey and play for my country and, all going well, hopefully I can get to 50. It is a big thing to me and to my family.
“I’ve enjoyed it. To play nearly 50 times for your country has been brilliant. It has been tough as well at times – we have had some not-so-good games – but I try to remember all the positives from each game and the results that we’ve got, and there have been some very memorable ones.”
Hendrick has time yet to significantly add to his tally, and team-mate David McGoldrick has tipped him to join the nation’s 100 club.
The Sheffield United striker said: “I’m not going to congratulate him because he’ll get a big head, but it’s a great achievement from a great player.
“He’s still quite young – he could get another 50, the way he plays. He’s really important to the team.”
In the meantime, the pair will attempt to build upon Ireland’s positive start in Group D, which they lead with 10 points from their opening four fixtures.
Hendrick said: “It’s going to be tough (against Switzerland). We’ve watched them and they are a good team. They have good players and they move the ball well.
“But they are coming here to play us and we’ve done really well here. We want to keep that going and we want to play our game. As much as we need to stop their strengths, we need to do what we are good at.”
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