Derry City goal hero Ronan Curtis laughs off bizarre inclusion in Ireland senior squad
RONAN CURTIS laughed off his bizarre inclusion in the Republic of Ireland's team sheet for their friendly international against Mexico at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey as he celebrated his stunning free-kick in Derry City's victory over Galway United in Buncrana less than 24 hours later.
Curtis joined Ipswich Town's David McGoldrick and Newcastle United's Daryl Murphy among Martin O'Neill's three man strike-force named in the squad when the official teamsheet was handed out ahead of the 3-1 loss in the USA.
And while the current Ireland U23 international found his inclusion amusing, he admits it's very much his long term aim to one day make his way into the senior set-up.
So, appearing fresh and inexplicably re-energised despite an arduous return journey to Ireland in the small hours of Friday morning, Curtis lined up against bottom of the table Galway and got Derry City off to the perfect start with a terrific fifth minute free-kick, drilled ferociously into the bottom corner.
Afterwards, the City striker clearly found the funny side of being launched into the senior international spotlight somewhat prematurely.
"Apparently I was in the Ireland team to play Mexico last night so I just flew back there especially for the Galway game," he laughed. "It was a bit crazy to see that last night. But that's the aim to get there at some point. Hopefully I can get across the water in the next couple of years and play at a higher level but Derry is an unbelievable club and I love playing for them. I just have to be patient."
Curtis, who was deployed on the left wing against the Tribesmen at Maginn Park, netted his third goal of the campaign with that magnificent set-piece from the edge of the 18 yard box - a technique he cheekily compared to Real Madrid superstars, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale!
He persuaded regular free-kick taker, Barry McNamee to let him hit it having put in plenty of practice from similar positions on the training ground and he couldn't have struck it any sweeter.
"I've been practising them in training and thankfully Baz let me hit one so it was good to see it go in. It's the first one I've taken this season but I've been practising and practising in training and finally Baz let me hit it this time.
"It was a Ronaldo/Bale sort of strike," he laughed. "So it wasn't too bad. But it was great play for our second goal as well. It was a great cross and good finish from 'Skinny' (Nathan Boyle)."
Despite Gary Shanahan's 24th minute strike to cut the deficit in half, Derry held on to extend their unbeaten run to 10 matches and secure a win which sees them sitting in third place with a game in hand at the midseason interval, one point ahead of Bray Wanderers who they meet at the Carlisle Grounds when the league resumes on June 16th. Therefore Friday night's result coupled with Bray's defeat to Limerick, proved crucial in their quest to qualify for Europe.
"It was a hard enough game but we dug deep. We knew it was going to be tough as we lost to them in the cup and we drew with them down there but luckily we got the win. They shook us up when they got the goal and they had one disallowed.
"When you're 2-0 up the next goal is always crucial. We had chances to make it 3-0 and we would've been out of sight but if we concede we're under pressure. They hit the bar and came close to levelling but we dug deep and did really well in the end.
"In the second half we had a couple of good chances. Skinny (Nathan Boyle) had one cleared off the line and hit the post. If we take those chances then the game's dead and buried.
It was good to bounce back with a win after two scoreless draws.
"We've got a game in hand and sitting third going into the break, one point ahead of Bray who we play when we get back as well so we're not doing too bad. We're unbeaten in 10 games as well so we're doing well.
"I'm just trying to work hard and play my own game as Kenny (Shiels) keeps telling me. He tells me not to let things frustrate me and just keep adding to my tally."