THIS WEEK eight years ago, Seamus Coleman was readying himself for a Connacht derby against Galway United when he was in the colours of Sligo Rovers.
Coleman was a player in real form. Sligo finished in fourth position in that 2008 campaign and Coleman was having eyelashes fluttered in his direction.
Ever since his days plodding about with St Catherine’s as a young teenager in the Donegal Saturday League, Coleman has never taken his surroundings, however modest or imperious they’ve been, for granted.
Making it at Sligo, initially, was in itself an achievement, given how close he was to leaving the Showgrounds in 2007. Rob McDonald, then manager, suggested he go on loan to Finn Harps, then in the First Division.[adrotate group=”85″]
Coleman baulked at the notion, but McDonald was soon replaced in Sligo by Paul Cook and Coleman took off, joining Everton in January 2009 for what is one of the Premier League’s bargains, a snip at £60,000.
Tonight, Coleman from Cummins Hill in Killybegs will captain the Republic of Ireland against Georgia in a World Cup qualifier at the Aviva Stadium on the occasion of his 40th Irish appearance.
“To play 40 games for Ireland is a great honour. I didn’t know, but hopefully I can finish it with a win,” Coleman said at a media briefing, alongside Irish manager Martin O’Neill, in Dublin yesterday.
Coleman has been appointed as O’Neill’s new skipper after impressing in the role in the Euro 2016 games against Italy and France, having been left at home for Euro 2012 by Giovanni Trapattoni.
He said: “You are always trying to improve yourself. To get to the tournament was a big achievement for us all and we all learned a lot from it. Playing under different managers as well has improved me in different ways.
“But you always want to do better. You never think that you’re the finished article and I just want to keep improving and keep learning and try to get to this World Cup.
“I try to do everything the same and just not change. I’m not going to suddenly start shouting and roaring at people. I’ll just be the same. Train well, train professionally and do things properly.”
That’s always been the way.
The thing about Coleman is that while he has always been improving he’s never changed.
The busload that went to watch his debut, in 2011 against Wales, have always been followers of the Irish team. Coleman often joined in the trips to Lansdowne Road, but now he’s the very subject of their support.
It’ll be a proud night tonight and another milestone in a career that will always have a Roy of the Rovers feel to it.
But Coleman certainly isn’t the comic book kid.
He’s become every inch the streetwise Premier League player who’s on the cusp of a landmark appearance tonight, but the sentiment will mean little if Ireland don’t collect the win.
Ireland know all about Georgia from the Euro 2016 qualifiers when they won 2-1 in Tbilisi and it took a Jonathan Walters goal to win it for Ireland in Dublin.[adrotate group=”83″]
Coleman said: “We know a lot about them from the last campaign. We needed a little bit of magic from Aiden McGeady out there, and at home as well it took us until late until Jonny got his goal.
“They beat Spain not so long ago in a friendly match and they have run Germany close, Austria close, so it’s a tough game.
It’s not going to be a walk-over by any means and we are going to have to all be on our game to get a result.”
Coleman hasn’t scored in his 39 caps with his sole international goal coming in an Under-21 win over Estonia in 2010. Could tonight be the night when Coleman breaks that mould?[adrotate group=”53″] Tags: