Teenager Sean Scannell admits he has to pinch himself as he waits in hope for a senior international debut.

The 17-year-old Crystal Palace player was called up for the Republic of Ireland's Portugal training camp this week and was used as a substitute in the practice matches they played against Portimonense and Lagos on the Algarve.

He and his team-mates returned to Dublin on Thursday to finalise their preparations for Saturday night's friendly clash with Serbia at Croke Park with Scannell scarcely able to believe he could be involved.

Asked if he has to pinch himself from time to time, he said: ‘Yes, I do actually.

‘I just think to myself, 'How has this happened to me in the space of a year?'

‘This year has been the biggest surprise for me - it has all come in the space of a year.

‘It has been excellent.’

The son of an Irish father and a Jamaican mother, Scannell actually qualifies to play for Ireland, England and Jamaica, but had no hesitation in opting for the country for which he hopes to make a major breakthrough in the next few months.

Even a place on the bench for the Serbia game, or the one which follows it against Colombia at Craven Cottage next Thursday, would be a huge boost for a player who started the season in Palace's youth team.

He said: ‘It started off out of the blue. I was just playing in the youth team and scored a couple of goals, and (Palace boss) Neil Warnock said if I was good enough to play, he was going to play me.

‘From there, it all started happening.’

Scannell may have to remain patient as he attempts to force his way into new Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni's plans for the World Cup qualifying campaign, which gets under way in September.

But he admits just being a member of the squad Saturday night will fulfil an ambition.

He said: ‘Even if I don't play, it will still be a great experience to be on the bench.

‘But if I do, that would make me really happy.

‘I am going to work hard now and just keep my head down and even if I don't get a call-up for the World Cup qualifiers, just being with the squad will have been great.’

Scannell trained with the rest of a squad boosted by the arrival of Robbie Keane and Richard Dunne at Malahide Thursday night, and Champions League winner John O'Shea and Celtic duo Aiden McGeady and Darren O'Dea are due to meet up Saturday.

Trapattoni put his players through their paces under slate skies and with rain falling, in stark contrast to the conditions for most of their time in Portugal.

However, the Italian was not too disappointed by the weather.
He said: ‘For a game, it is a better climate because the sun is only for a holiday.’

Midfielder Darren Potter remains a doubt for Saturday's game with a heel problem, and Martin Rowlands joined him on the sidelines with an ankle injury suffered in training which will be assessed on Friday.