Despite the announcement of his supposed retirement in November 2018, Republic of Ireland stalwart Glenn Whelan revealed that he never officially retired from the international game.
The Aston Villa midfielder played a pivotal role in Ireland’s 1-0 Group D win over Georgia at the Aviva Stadium with Conor Hourihane scoring the winner in the first half.
“I never retired,” the former Stoke City midfield general told the assembled media scrum.
“Martin O’Neill was going about his thing before and I understood that. I’m getting on in age so I’m very grateful to Mick to call me back in.
“I didn’t know where I was to stand, to just be around the lads or play my part. I’m pushing them, we’ve got a few young lads who are pushing through who need that little bit of experience I’ll be happy.”
Whelan told journalists of when he got wind of a potential return to the starting eleven, which came on Monday afternoon.
“I got a shout yesterday to be ready and obviously the manager named the team today.
“I know where I stand, I’m not going to play every game I know that full well but to come and train hard was all I wanted, and I think I gave him something to think about.”
Tuesday evening’s result at the Aviva Stadium meant that Ireland went top of Group D, with the draw between Switzerland and Denmark proving to be pivotal for the Boys in Green.
Ireland, with two wins from two have started as many would have hoped and the 35-year-old Dubliner noted his delight at the Boys in Green start to the EURO 2020 Qualifying campaign.
“We got six points and we gave the fans something to cheer about once again. We’re trying to get everyone back onside a little bit.
“The last twelve months were difficult but performances like that, especially in the first half will get everyone going again. The new management have come in to give the lads a gee up.
“We always go out there and try our best. It’s not like we don’t though. We were going through a bit of a sticky time but hopefully we turned a corner.”
Prior to Conor Hourihane’s winner, a tirade of tennis balls were unleashed onto the Lansdowne Road pitch.
When asked about what he made of the spectacle, the former Manchester City youth jokingly told of his amusement.
“Hopefully next time we’ve got a free kick they’ve got their tennis balls!” Whelan jovially said.
“The fans are disgruntled. They have a right to protest whatever way they want but we can only worry about what happens on the pitch.
“I play with Conor every week, so I knew something was going to happen!”
With the Georgia game marking his ‘return’ to international action, the veteran midfield engine is hoping for more to come.
“When I played in November, I thought that was going to be my last time in a green jersey so to get a call back there was no questions asked and I was onto it straight away.
“If I can do my part, I’ll be happy!”