Ireland has a new people's champion and, God almighty, he has paid his dues 4 years ago

Ireland has a new people's champion and, God almighty, he has paid his dues

20 outfield players went to France with Ireland for Euro 2016.

18 of them played. Two of them didn't.

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One of them was Cyrus Christie, stuck behind Seamus Coleman for the whole summer - he could hardly have any real complaints or any expectations to the contrary.

The other was David Meyler.

Meyler's summer was a lot simpler than most of them but it couldn't have been easy.

Daryl Murphy and David Meyler 21/6/2016

Roy Keane with David Meyler and James McClean 18/6/2016

Robbie Brady and David Meyler 9/6/2016

James McClean and David Meyler 6/6/2016

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He was there, he was preparing, he was ready but he never got that training top off and it must've been downright frustrating.

Every time he appeared from the changing rooms after the country's four Euro 2016 games, he walked on by the media scrums with a polite nod. He was always one of the first out of course but, as he watched his team mates being hounded for quotes and photos and watched them take up his place on the team as well, he never lost his professionalism and he never lost sight of why they were there.

They were there for the country. It wasn't about David Meyler, it was about Ireland.

Shane Long celebrates at the final whistle 22/6/2016

Seamus Coleman spoke after the Republic's famous win in Austria on Saturday night and he roared down the microphone with pure fire and passion.

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David Meyler was the subject of his praise.

"I say it all the time, when I come out with this group of lads, it's a privilege," Coleman said.

"David Meyler: He's been waiting for a chance and he was different class."

It probably irked at the Hull City man that he didn't get the nod in James McCarthy's absence in Vienna. There's no real reason why someone like Glenn Whelan should have accumulated 60 more caps than him with just five years to spare on the Cork native and now that it looks increasingly like the Stoke midfielder is entering his twilight years, his 27-year-old team mate could be forgiven for thinking he might edge ahead in the pecking order.

David Meyler and James McClean 9/10/2016

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Roy Keane has always been a fan.

"I like Meyler," the national assistant manager said this time last year.

"Obviously I signed him, one of my better signings –  but that wouldn’t have been hard.

"Every time I spoke to people, and when Meyler was at Hull, I said 'he’ll never let you down'.

"He’s a good character, I’ll give him that. He’s a good player, he’ll do a good job for us, he’s a strong boy, good attitude.

"It’s no coincidence every time I see Hull and Hull are winning games, Meyler is playing for them."

It's not a coincidence that any time his country has needed him, Meyler has delivered. He's seen as a utility man, a reliable man but, by God, he has a bit about him as well.

He came on against Germany - at left back no less - and he was absolutely relentless. The team needed guided home with the world champions hounding them all over Dublin and Meyler took no prisoners and no mercy - not even on the referee.

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Against Austria, the Republic faced a number of obstacles. A hostile away crowd, decent opposition albeit confidence-shot, and an international record that extended 29 years to find the last time Ireland won a competitive fixture away from home against a higher-ranked side.

They also had no James McCarthy, Robbie Brady deputising at full back and then Glenn Whelan pulling up after 23 minutes. For all intents and purposes, it could've been seen as a bit of a crisis.

David Meyler came on and it was a case of 'what the hell were you worried about'.

It took him a moment or two to catch the pace of the game and, by that stage, Ireland were probably lucky Janko didn't give the Austrians a lead after he found himself in space where you'd very much like your holding midfielder closing down.

After that, it was like Meyler took all the criticism and opportunities he was never given personally and he went about producing an all-action hour of pure spirit in the green jersey. When he needed to mince someone, he did it. When he needed to take the ball off a player under pressure, he did. And when he needed to play forward, he did it well.

He started the move for the only goal of the night - Cork City, to Shelbourne, to Derry City. Thought up, made up, and finished up in the League of Ireland.

He dinked a gorgeous pass over the top for Jeff Hendrick into the box and gave us so much more than we have been getting from that role. He gave us stability, sure, but he was also part of - he was also key to - the second half revival that saw the Irish emerge with a smell of blood in their nostrils. They sensed the Austrians were there to be taken and they went at them.

They shut us all up - all the critics who say they don't play enough football or that they respect opposition too much. And Meyler shut up a few of his own doubters too.

So much so that people are getting slightly carried away.

Meyler

He lorded proceedings though.

Amen.

Maith an fear.

Fully deserved.

Fully appreciated.

Prepare for plaudits.

Not that the man himself would take any of the credit.

He'll just go and get ready for the next time he's needed. But he shouldn't have to wait so long again. Not ever again. Not on this showing.

Meyler2