Callum O’Dowda has had a busy summer, making the move across the England-Wales border, changing clubs from Bristol City to Severnside derby rivals Cardiff City.
Six years with the Robins, the player admitted that he needed a change and a new challenge, following an injury-hit campaign last season, and he has certainly made an immediate impact at his new club, impressing the initially ambivalent Bluebird supporters with some excellent early performances for his new club.
Primarily playing on the left of a front three, O’Dowda has also shown his versatility by lining out in a number of other roles throughout the early season, and he has obviously impressed Ireland manager Stephen Kenny, who brought him back into the squad for the upcoming double-header against Scotland on Saturday and Armenia three days later.
Kenny has always made a point of name-checking the attack-minded midfielder when discussing options that were unavailable, and such has been the case throughout the injury-plagued recent seasons, it has been two years since O’Dowda last played a game for his country.
We need your consent to load this comcast-player contentWe use comcast-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences
But O’Dowda, like Robbie Brady, is looking to make up for lost time and show his attacking qualities on the international scene, hoping to be involved over the next seven days.
"I'm feeling really good," said O’Dowda, speaking at Monday’s press conference. "It has been quite a while and it always seems that when the international break comes around, I was in the middle of a long-term injury.
"I had a hamstring operation and I've had a fair share of unlucky injuries but, I'm feeling good where I'm at, and I've settled in nicely at Cardiff City as well. I'm happy to be back in the fold.
"I feel as though I have unfinished business in a way, and the gaffer here has been great with me with phone calls and checking up on me to see how I am. I want to repay that loyalty he has had in me as I did start quite a few of his early games."
The 27-year-old is also aware that he has been placed into a category of players who are prone to injury, however, he is adamant that it will not be what defines his legacy in the game.
In fact, he is confident that he is back to his best and expects to play a high level of football over this and the coming seasons for club and country.
"I'm just delighted to be back playing and back amongst the boys," said O’Dowda. "I'm grateful to still be around the setup, but I still feel I have a lot to offer.
"It was tough," he added, when asked about staying positive throughout his spells out of the game through injury. "I just felt like it was one after another, like a knock-on effect.
"But I like to think I am quite a positive person as well. I had good people around me to help, as well, which was probably the key thing. I am positive, and I always try to look at the positives in it, whether I can strengthen other areas, or analyse my game.
"I don’t want to be one of those guys when I retire and people say injuries tarnished his career or he didn’t fulfil his potential because of injuries.
"Hopefully, touch wood, this is the season I can kick on and truly just get back to my being at my best playing regular football."
Looking ahead to the two Nations League games, O’Dowda admitted that he was not sure what position he would be most suited to within the Ireland set-up, however, he stressed that he was happiest playing in a more advanced role.
And the Oxford native is keen to repay the manager for the faith that he has shown in him throughout the past few years, lauding Kenny for his personal traits, which he feels are lacking in many football managers.
"[Kenny has been] very good with contact, the odd phone call, and I guess that just shows what he’s like, not just as a manager but as a human being, which you don’t normally see a lot from managers," said O’Dowda.
"We have had private conversations, and I do learn a lot from showing that trust and loyalty to me.
"It’s a tough question, what I’m suited to? I’m not too sure," he added, when asked what he would consider his best position.
"The one I enjoy the most is probably playing higher up, further forward. But I think especially in this Ireland team, wherever on the left side, I think that could be my strongest position."
O’Dowda also took time out during the summer to support his sister, Jade, who was competing in the heptathlon at the Commonwealth Games, and took home a bronze medal, representing England.
A proud moment for big brother, who added that he really saw how talented she was, having spent a lot of time together during the Covid lockdown.
"I was extremely proud. It was lovely," said O’Dowda. "I went to watch her in Birmingham and she did fantastic.
"They always say she is the proper athlete in the family. Myself and Jade are very close. She’s worked extremely hard to get into this position.
"She did a bit of Irish dancing when she was younger, but she probably noticed that she could run and do all these different events that you do for the heptathlon, and she is exceptionally good at all of them.
"I noticed it, because I had to spend lockdown with my sister, as she was visiting and she ended up, I was going to say, she outstayed her welcome, but she definitely didn't…
"Even when we were allowed to go out, I could see how much of an athlete she was. She’s done really well to achieve what she has over the past year."
Follow the Republic of Ireland v Scotland this Saturday (kick-off 7.45pm) via our live blog on RTÉ.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app, watch live on RTÉ 2 and the RTÉ Player, or listen to national radio commentary on RTÉ Radio 1