Ryan Manning admits that he is eager to play international football for Ireland but is primarily focused on helping QPR remain on an upward curve in the English Championship.
The former Galway United man has enjoyed a remarkable month at the west London club as he made his debut with The Rs on New Year’s Eve, and has been an ever-present in the league starting XI since then, helping the club to three wins and a draw in their last four matches.
Manning benefited from a change of personnel at the club and has obviously impressed new manager Ian Holloway with a string of commanding performances in midfield, which has earned the 20-year-old a new contract at the Loftus Road club.
"They are mentally tough to play over here and definitely, the League of Ireland is a good stepping stone towards getting to England.” - Ryan Manning
The midfielder has already worn the green of Ireland at youth and Under-19 level and now the senior squad is in Manning's sights, albeit as a long-term goal as he cements his place in the QPR first team.
“I want to play international football for my country like every Irish footballer wants to do,” Manning told RTE Sport after Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Fulham, where the former Ireland Under-19 international scored his first league goal en route to picking up the man-of-the-match award.
“They’re mid World Cup qualifiers at the moment so I’m just going to keep playing at club level, improve and play as many games as I can.
“And if Martin O’Neill feels that I deserve a call up, I’d be absolutely over the moon with it. So my long-term goal is to play international football.”
Manning has been with the London side for two years, signing from Galway in January 2015, but felt that he was “rotting away” in the Under-23 team and frustrated that he was not getting a chance to show what he could contribute to a team that was sailing very close to the danger zone in England’s second tier.
But one man’s tragedy is another’s opportunity, so when Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was sacked as QPR manager last November, it was only a matter of time before new manager Ian Holloway recognised the potential of the ball-playing midfielder.
“I’m just delighted that I’m getting a chance,” added Manning. “The team is doing well and everything seems to be going in the right direction.
“It was a massively frustrating time for me, thinking I had something to offer. I felt like I was rotting away with the Under-23s.
“But the new manager came in and then there were new people to impress, and he (Ian Holloway) just plucked me out of the 23s and gave me my chance.
“Obviously, I’m over the moon to get my first goal, but I’m disappointed with the result as we were 1-0 up with 15 minutes to play.
“I couldn’t have imagined that it would go this well but I’m grateful and I’ll take it. But the main thing is that we are getting results and moving up the table. That’s ten points from our last 12.”
And while that aforementioned decay was attempting to fester itself in the mind of the Galway native, Manning believed that he had the mental strength to deal with the situation, while deflecting rumours that he would be returning to the League of Ireland.
In fact, Manning credits the League of Ireland for instilling that character, which has helped him to thrive in the “tough” situation that he found himself in.
“Going back to Ireland was never an option. I was always going to give it a good go in England before going home.
“The idea that if you want to make it in England, you have to go over at 16 and start right at the bottom, I don’t think that’s the case.
“A lot of the successful Irish footballers playing in England have come from the League of Ireland route and played football professionally for a couple of years and matured.
“And when they come over here, they are old enough, experienced enough to deal with everything, because it is a tough industry to be in and there a lot of ups and downs.
“But they are mentally tough to play over here and definitely, the League of Ireland is a good stepping stone towards getting to England.”