Ronan Curtis is hoping to win his first senior international cap during the crunch UEFA Nations Cup double-header this month but is prepared to wait patiently for his dream Republic of Ireland debut.
The former Derry City striker has been in sensational form since landing his dream move to England with Portsmouth, lighting up Fratton Park with six goals and five assists so far as Pompey lead the way in League One.
His latest goal came midweek when he netted a stunning winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Coventry which sent Portsmouth three points clear at the top as they extended their unbeaten run to 11 games.
And it’s that sort of form which has alerted the interest of Ireland boss, Martin O’Neill who has called the St Johnston man up to the senior set-up for the second time. He was an unused substitute for the draw in Poland last month but with crunch UEFA Nations Cup games against Denmark on October 13th and Wales on October 16th at the Aviva Stadium, he’s hoping he gets his chance to shine.
Curtis discovered yesterday he was named in the provisional 32 man squad alongside Derry men, James McClean, who makes his return from a wrist injury, and Shane Duffy who Curtis described as a ‘big brother’ having helped him fit in when he joined up for the trip to Poland. He insists it’s a ‘massive honour’ to be a part of it and is anxious to impress O’Neill and make the cut for the must-win double-header.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “I’m over the moon.
“It’s an amazing feeling. That’s all I ever wanted to do was play for my country and I’m glad I got the call-up for the second time.
“Hopefully this time I make my debut but we’ll see.”
Curtis is one of seven strikers named in the provisional squad and he knows it’s a tough ask to pip more established players like Shane Long and Sean Maguire to a place in the team. However, he believes just being around Ireland forwards will be massive in terms of his development.
“Seany Maguire and Shane Long are two great players who are in Championship and Premier League teams so there’s good talent there but hopefully I work hard in training and if he (O’Neill) likes me and sees the way I perform then hopefully I do make my debut. When you’ve got better players around you, you obviously play better and I think my confidence grows a bit more.
“It’s my second time called up and it’s a great experience. I’m a young player and I’m only coming through. He (O’Neill) knows that and I know that. My time will come. I’m only 22 years of age and if I don’t make my debut this time it’s all about the experience and gelling with the lads and enjoying it really.
“They’re all good lads. They made me feel welcome. People like Seamus Coleman and Shane Duffy, who I know from back home anyway. He was like my big brother down there looking after me and the rest of them were really nice as well. I really enjoyed it.”
Curtis’ former club, Derry City could also be set for a welcome financial windfall to the tune of £20,000 should he make his competitive international debut due to a clause written into his contract when his transfer from the Candy Stripes was agreed. Reflecting on how his career has taken off since his summer move from Brandywell, Curtis said it’s been an ‘unbelievable’ few months.
“Everything is amazing at the minute. There’s a real feel-good factor around the ground here at Portsmouth. It’s 11 unbeaten, eight wins and four draws so we’re really flying at the minute. I work hard for my team and hopefully I can do that stepping up to the Ireland squad now.
“Playing for your country, is personally, a big moment because that’s what I want to get to. I’m fit and ready. It will be really good for Derry too. Had someone said to me a couple of months ago when I was at Derry I would go to Portsmouth and bang in six goals, set up five, play every game and get called up twice for the national team and maybe play your debut - well! It’s a massive honour for me to come from League of Ireland and fit right into League One and take my chances. I’m really enjoying it and hopefully I stay fit, fresh and keep banging them in. Hopefully come next week I get my chance to play for the Ireland senior squad!