This time last year, Dara O'Shea was part of an Exeter City team that fell just short of a place in the League Two play-offs.

Before that, the Dubliner spent a season on loan with then seventh-tier Hereford.

Now, following West Brom's dramatic promotion from the Championship on Wednesday, the 21-year-old defender is a starter in a team that will play in the Premier League next season.

"To be part of a team that gets promoted to the Premier League is just amazing," O’Shea told 2fm’s Game On.

"Growing up as a kid, playing on the green in front of the house and pretending to be a player in the Premier League... And now, potentially, to have the chance to become one is amazing.

"At the start of the season I was kind of expecting to go back out on loan and get more experience. But the gaffer (Slaven Bilic) integrated me into the team straight away and I felt part of it.

"I was on the bench up until I made my debut in December against Brentford and then I kicked on a bit. He gave me a chance at right-back in the FA Cup. I did well and he kept me in the side.

"Then obviously the break and lockdown happened and kind of stopped everything.

"Coming back I didn’t play the first two games but then was put back in again and ended up playing until the end of the season.

"It’s been a mad season and one I definitely won’t forget."

"You have to push yourself into the uncomfortable positions to do well in football, I think"

O’Shea, a 6’2 defender whose natural position is perhaps more at centre-back, credits his loan spells in the lower leagues with helping him to make the breakthrough.

"I had had my fair share of playing U23s football and knew that if I really had to kick on, I had to put myself out of the comfort zone and start playing men’s football.

"I think if I hadn’t gone there (Hereford) I don’t think I would be in the position I am now. The amount I learned playing with older players, just learning my trade at a senior level.

"The 23s is very comfortable and that’s why a lot of players come home so early because they get into that comfortable stage of playing for a big-name club and everyone thinks it’s great.

"But really, you’re not really progressing as much as you would if you were out playing with men.

"You have to push yourself into the uncomfortable positions to do well in football, I think. You have to push yourself out there and try to get as much experience as possible, to be ready to make the step up and play in a first team."

Far from being daunted by the thought of coming up against the likes of Sadio Mane or Jamie Vardy, O'Shea said he was "excited" at the prospect.

"As a player you want to play against the best players. That’s the best way to improve, to test yourself.

"I’m really looking forward to it. The Premier League is the best league in the world and it’s got some of the best players in the world.

"So to have a chance to put myself up against them is a dream."

Dara O'Shea in action for Ireland U21s in 2019

Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny clearly rates the former St Kevin’s Boys man – he made him captain while in charge of the Under 21s.

O’Shea admits a senior cap one of his ambitions but his focus for the moment is on making history under new U-21 manager Jim Crawford.

"It’s definitely something I want to achieve, to play for Ireland at senior level, but I think at the moment, I’m still with the 21s and our main goal is to qualify for the European Championships because it hasn’t been done by an Irish team yet.

"I just have to keep my head down, keep playing well, and hopefully that senior call will come."

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