As Chiedozie Ogbene headed home Ireland's third goal in Saturday’s victory over Azerbaijan, the Cork native’s long and winding road to the top appeared to have come full circle.

Despite making an impressive FAI Cup final appearance as a teenager back in 2016, Ogbene was already plotting out his next move, and dreaming bigger dreams.

On the periphery of a very good league-challenging Cork City side, the local lad, who grew up in the shadow of Turner’s Cross, opted to travel across the province the following season and sign for Limerick.

A full year of first-team football – Ogbene played 37 times and scored ten goals for the Treaty County club – the 20-year-old went on trial at Brentford and ended up signing a three and a half-year deal at the London club.

Brentford were on the up, a club with Premier League notions, which saw Ogbene return to the role of squad player, so it was back on the road for the Cork youngster, finally signing for Rotherham a year later, having spent the season on loan at Exeter.

The Yorkshire club proved a perfect fit for Ogbene, who played a starring role as the Millers secured promotion to the Championship.

Now in his third season at the New York Stadium, Ogbene has been on Stephen Kenny’s radar for some time, and was finally rewarded for taking the road less travelled with a call-up to the Ireland squad for the end-of-season camp, resulting in an impressive debut in the scoreless draw against Hungary.

Injury kept Ogbene out of the squad in September, however, he returned for the trip to Azerbaijan, and it was quite noteworthy that he appears to have jumped ahead of Troy Parrott, Aaron Connolly, James Collins, Shane Long and new arrival Will Keane, as he was sprung from the bench in Baku on Saturday.

Gavin Bazunu’s roots, like Ogbene, were nurtured in the League of Ireland, and while Roy Keane might argue about the ability for a goalkeeper to burst onto the scene, Bazunu certainly did arrive into the Shamrock Rovers first team in a blaze of glory, keeping a clean sheet on his debut and saving a vital penalty at Turner’s Cross.

Four clean sheets in a row and it was obvious that Bazunu, just sixteen at the time, was not long for that particular parish, whisked away to the absolute summit of English football, signing for Manchester City.

Bazunu was expected to put the head down and learn his trade for a few years, however, he made an immediate impression at the Etihad, as he was brought away with the first team squad on a Champions League mission to Real Madrid, gaining valuable experience.

A taste of what the future might hold, Bazunu set about fastracking that particular ambition, signing a loan deal with League 1 side Rochdale, while still only 18.

Bazunu played 29 times for Rochdale, cementing the number one jersey for most of the season, and while the club lost their status, Bazunu was kept very busy at the struggling club.

The young keeper stepped up a level, if not a division, this season, signing for Portsmouth, and it is no surprise to see him thriving in his new place of work.

Where it all started for Bazunu - a penalty save at Turner's Cross

Bazunu’s self-belief and determination has deservedly landed him the top prize of the Ireland number one jersey, bypassing the ultra-talented Caoimhin Kelleher, who had been earmarked for that particular accolade over the past couple of seasons as he edged closer to the number one spot at Liverpool.

Kelleher’s conundrum is one that Bazunu has not yet had to consider, as the young Corkonian has been anointed official number two at Jurgen Klopp’s side.

Premier League sub goalkeeper is usually a role for the wily old pro, the Asmir Begovics of this world, playing out their golden years, while keeping the main man on his toes, dipping into the world of coaching or plotting their post-football career.

So while Kelleher looks content to sit in Alisson’s shadow for the current season, feeding off the scraps of the League Cup, and gaining the experience that comes with training daily with a world class unit, the now 22-year-old will have to decide what is best for his career sooner rather than later.

And the young keeper is not alone, with fellow squad members Adam Idah, Andrew Omobamidele, Aaron Connolly and Nathan Collins all sitting on the sidelines this season.

Watching the likes of Ogbene reaping the benefits of playing regular first-team might inspire them to push for loan moves in January if they have not broken into the starting XI at their respective clubs.

And it is not just the young players who have to make that call, as they can also take heart from the likes of James McClean who moved back to Wigan to keep himself relevant on the international front.

John Egan’s path to the Ireland first team is another to take note of, as the centre-half left Sunderland to drop down the divisions to Gillingham before making it back with Sheffield United.

Enda Stevens another, who ended up at the Blades with Egan, but only after leaving Aston Villa for Portsmouth, via Doncaster, before signing for the Bramell Lane club.

James McClean's move to Wigan has benefitted the Ireland squad

Callum Robinson summed it up pretty well at the start of the international week, when the talk was just about football, and prior to the Covid conversation.

The entertaining attacker’s form at Preston punched his ticket to the Premier League at the start of the 2019-20 season, signing for Sheffield United.

However, within six months, he was out on loan to current club West Brom, and while he returned to the Premier League with the Baggies, the Black Country side are again in the Championship.

And Robinson admits that it is perhaps more beneficial for him, as a forward, to be playing in a team challenging for top honours in the second tier, rather than a struggling side in the top flight.

"Last season we got relegated, and maybe yeah, as a forward you’re getting less chances, but you’re a Premiership player.

"On the flip side, in the Championship, you have a lot of quality, you’re getting into attacks one on one, more touches on the ball so that is giving you more confidence.

"And winning games in the championship also gives you confidence, we’re getting those wins now and I feel that way coming into these games."

Robinson brought that confidence into the Ireland camp, and it was noted, as the manager said he was like a breath of fresh air, and that he had been missed.

The infectious frontman would need just seven minutes to back up the manager’s claims that he is a vital part of the new-look Irish side.

And when Kenny needed fresh legs and attacking intent at the end of the game, it was no surprise that he opted for a week-to-week regular like Ogbene who answered the call in style and will move further up in the manager's estimation for future fixtures.

Follow Republic of Ireland v Qatar via our liveblog on RTÉ.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app, watch on RTÉ 2 and the RTÉ Player or listen to commentary on RTÉ Radio 1 Extra.

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