For Séamus Coleman, leading the national team in his role as captain is serious business that requires full concentration.
Here are possible distractions: On Thursday night, a Welsh side who are well-known opponents of the Republic of Ireland beat Austria away to advance to the World Cup play-off final, with the Welshmen stepping up on the scene 90 minutes from the world to his cup final, a case of what could have been for Coleman and his Irish team-mates had Ireland’s World Cup campaign shown a little more steel.
There are issues in camp, such as a goalkeeper who is a rookie at international level being asked to deal with free-goal strikers like Christian Benteke and Michy Batshuayi, as well as club issues for Coleman, his Everton side on one seemingly irreversible slip from the Premier League.
But there are other things to deal with, far more important ones. Ukraine should also have been in action at the World Cup on Thursday but their side, including Coleman’s club-mate Vitaliy Mykolenko, have no games to play, no place to play home games and have no idea when they will ever be up the place will go again as a national team.
“Myko, he’s a fantastic boy. He’s a quiet boy, we signed him in January, he’s a really good boy. You can’t even imagine how he feels,” Coleman said of Everton man Mykolenko.
“You are there for him, you try to support him as best you can, you let him know you are there for him, the club is there for him but you know his family and everyone is there [Ukraine] so it is very difficult for him.
“We are there for him. I’m sure it’s hard for him to concentrate and do his job but it’s him, he comes to training every day and does what we can. He has the support his teammates, any little support we can give him.”
In a normal year, Coleman and the Ireland side would use the two friendlies to prepare for the first competitive game of 2022, which will be played at home against Ukraine in the Nations League in June. No one knows when the Ukraine national team will be in any physical or mental condition to play Ireland.
And Coleman admits there can be no groaning from the Irish side when it comes to clarity over a potential date with the Ukrainians.
“This is bigger and more important than me as an Irish footballer. Yes, we would like to believe that there would be no pressure on this nation to do anything. We go through a lot. Again we’re sitting here talking about how much they’re going through and we really don’t know how much and how difficult their life is over there,” says Coleman.
“And for Myko on our behalf, how does he actually feel, how does he sleep at night, so I’m not going to sit here and pretend I know how it feels to be there or in her situation. I’m sure football is the last thing on their minds over there.”
Coleman says he is delighted with the quality of goalkeepers now being offered to Stephen Kenny, although Caoimhín Kelleher is now the only one of the three goalkeepers available in the Golden Generation due to injury and illness. But the veteran, who will win his 64th cap today, also insists attitude is key to an international career.
“You have to stay hungry, stay humble, stay focused. The rest of the things that come with being a professional footballer have to take a back seat. The players in this squad or any other squad, if they want to do their best, have to put their full focus on just being a professional footballer at the highest level,” he says.
“There’s no doubt that we have some very good players, some really good characters. You have to stay focused.
“Never think for a minute that you have arrived because if you start thinking that, it can be a slippery slope for people too.
“I can’t predict which players we’ll be talking about but we definitely have a quality in that.”
https://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/international-soccer/youre-there-for-him-you-try-and-support-him-as-best-you-can-seamus-coleman-on-helping-ukrainian-teammate-myko-41489266.html “You’re there for him, you try to support him as best you can” – Séamus Coleman on his help to Ukrainian teammate Myko