Sammie Szmodics thankful to end long wait for Republic of Ireland debut

Sammie Szmodics hopes he has “shut up” the detractors who questioned his hunger to play for the Republic of Ireland after finally making his international debut.

The 28-year-old Blackburn striker has twice in the past had to pull out of squads, leading some to question his commitment amid suggestions – he insists without foundation – that he could defect to Hungary, for whom he also qualifies through his grandfather.

However after turning in an impressive display in Saturday evening’s 0-0 friendly draw with Belgium at the Aviva Stadium, Szmodics was in bullish mood.

Republic of Ireland’s Sammie Szmodics (centre) in action with Belgium's Timothy Castagne (left) and Arthur Vermeeren
Republic of Ireland’s Sammie Szmodics, centre, in action with Belgium’s Timothy Castagne, left, and Arthur Vermeeren (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)

“I had to go home in the past because I was injured and other things have happened, and you read stuff in the press that I don’t want to play for Ireland, which is ridiculous because I was desperate to.

“The best way to shut people up is to show what you can do and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I love playing for Ireland and I’m excited now for the future to hopefully get many more caps.

“I’ve been ready for this for three or four years and to finally do it is unbelievable, but a big relief for me because it was one of the biggest days of my career.

“I hope I can wear the Ireland jersey a lot more.”

Sammie Szmodics, left, plays a pass under pressure from Belgium's Timothy Castagne
Sammie Szmodics, left, on the ball against Belgium (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)

Ireland could, and probably should, have won the game after being awarded a first-half penalty, only for 19-year-old striker Evan Ferguson to slip as he attempted to beat keeper Matz Sels, who blocked with his legs.

Szmodics said: “Evan is a big lad, a young, confident boy. He shouldn’t think about that penalty miss – I’ve missed two penalties this season. It’s how you step up and go again.

“If we get one on Tuesday and he’s playing, I’m sure he will take it.”

Szmodics has 27 goals to his name so far this season, 21 of them in the Sky Bet Championship, but he admitted it would perhaps have been “cheeky” of him to demand he took the penalty himself.

He said: “I knew Evan would take it. Young lad, my debut – it would have been quite cheeky for me to take the ball.

“I would have taken it and if we would have got another one in the same game, I would have said I’d have it, although my record this season has not been amazing.”

Szmodics will hope for further action on Tuesday, but whatever happens, he will return home with three shirts, one to give to his parents, one for his agent and the third, the one he wore on the night.

Asked who would get that one, he said: “Me. Definitely. But I need to wash it.”

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