Seamus Coleman admits he would have liked to have won more caps under Giovanni Trapattoni, but credits the former Ireland manager with improving the defensive side of his game.
The 26-year-old struggled to break into the Irish squad during the Italian’s reign despite regularly lining out for Everton in the Premier League.
In a wide-ranging interview with RTÉ Sport ahead of Sunday night’s RTÉ Sport Awards (9.30pm, RTÉ One), Coleman said: “I obviously felt that I should have got more caps than I did because I was playing quite well at the time for Everton and the manager didn’t see fit to put me in.
“But on the other hand, Ireland were doing really well to qualify for major tournaments. I know the media side of things wanted me playing but I never had a problem with Giovanni Trapattoni and if anything I learned a lot from him on the defensive side of things.”
"A lot of people go over to England when they are 15 or 16 .. if I had gone over at that age I would have been back by the time I was 18"
Coleman is now firmly established as one of Ireland’s most important players in Martin O’Neill's, though injury has limited his involvement in the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.
Ireland are in a four-way battle for qualification with Germany, Scotland and Poland in Group G, and will face an uphill battle when the campaign resumes at the end of March. But Coleman believes that despite defeat to Scotland in their last game, the team is still well placed to challenge for qualification after a heroic draw against Germany.
“We were obviously disappointed with the Scotland game but the lads did absolutely brilliantly to get a result out in Germany. We have still got Poland to play home and away and still got Scotland. It is still early days in the group and I’m sure that we can qualify.”
Coleman also spoke about his unconventional route to the top. His formative years featuring Gaelic football and the League of Ireland instead of a training contract at a football academy.
He said: “I know a lot of people go over to England when they are 15 or 16 years of age. I personally think if I had gone over at that age I would have been back by the time I was 18 or 19 because I would have struggled being away from home. I was homesick enough when I went away at 20."
Instead, Coleman became a League of Ireland star, lining out for Sligo Rovers 55 times between 2006 and 2008. “I was playing with men from the age of 17 and 18. I suppose I missed out on the coaching side of things but I got a lot more from the League and it stood me well and made the step up kind of easy I suppose.”
Coleman also considers the mentality developed while playing GAA as a teenager a key part of his sporting make-up.
"Playing for Killybegs Under 10s and 12 right up to Minors we were a successful group and won most things at underage level. We were quite a committed group and a tight bunch of lads.
"That definitely helped me, that commitment and motivation side of things. I took that motivation into Sligo Rovers and over here as well. It’s definitely stood me well.”
And while Coleman has had a superb 2013-2014 season, earning a place in the PFA Team of the Year and being named Everton’s player of the year and players’ player of the year, he is firmly of the view that there is more to come.
“I came here wanting to break into the first team and that’s what I did. Every step after that I try to keep pushing myself and I’m still doing that today. I’m not saying I’ve made it yet either because I like to keep pushing myself so I think that’s keeping me going.”
Seamus Coleman is an RTÉ Sport - Person of the Year nominee. The RTÉ Sport Awards are live on RTÉ One and the RTÉ Player from 9.30pm on Sunday, 21 December.