Central Coast Mariners flyer Stephen Mallon has been given a shot in the arm after finding out he may just be on the radar of Republic of Ireland U21 manager Stephen Kenny.
The wing-back, who joined Central Coast on loan from Sheffield United in January, has made three appearances for Mike Mulvey’s side, in that time showing fans he is the real deal.
Mallon has already featured at U18 and U19 international level and now appears to be on the verge of the next step.
“I found out about the potential call-up a few days ago off Nick [Montgomery],” said Mallon.
“Ireland got in contact — playing for my country’s always been an honour and I’ve gone up the ranks each season.
“Started off in Ireland U17s and now in contention for the U21s.
“Every time I pull on the green jersey, it’s a proud moment for me because, as I say, it is an honour to represent my country, where I’m from.
“It’s just something that every lad from Ireland wants to achieve and they look to do.”
Mallon's maturity on the pitch and eloquence in speaking publicly make it hard to remember he is still only 20 years old.
He moved halfway across the world in pursuit of first-team football in January, joining Blades team-mate Sam Graham in trading the United Kingdom for an Australian summer.
Having now fought his way into Mulvey’s starting 11, Mallon insisted the next step was for him and his team-mates to reward fans for their loyalty.
“That’s what we look to do every week,” said Mallon.
“(Fans) pay their hard-earned money to come watch us, so a little thing we can do is give back to them (by winning).
“The lads go out every week and try and put in a performance, we don’t go out to get beat or we don’t go out fearing the opposition.
“Hopefully this weekend we can go and get the three points with a good performance as well so the fans can enjoy it.”
Keane inspires Mallon
Should Mallon make it into Republic of Ireland’s U-21s squad, he’ll follow in the footsteps of his idol, Roy Keane.
The Manchester United legend, who represented the country on 67 occasions, played a different style to Mallon but is an inspirational figure nonetheless.
It was Keane’s tenacity and work ethic that appealed most to Mallon.
“There have been quite a few great Irish players, but probably for me [my hero] would be Roy Keane,” said Mallon.
“Being a big Manchester United fan, growing up I watched him play and he’s got that desire, that passion that a lot of Irish players have.
“Just every time he played for Ireland and Manchester United, he represented the badge well.
“I think a lot of young players look up to him because he’s a good example for young players.”