Clark desperate to stay in Republic contention
Defender Ciaran Clark returned to Aston Villa hoping he has done enough to sow a seed in the mind of Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni.
The 23-year-old was handed a third senior international cap in Wednesday night’s 1-0 friendly defeat by Greece at the Aviva Stadium as Trapattoni took a look at some of his younger players.
Clark will hope for another call-up when the Republic next get together for another friendly against Poland in February and by that point, the likes of Richard Dunne and Sean St Ledger may have recovered from the injuries which prevented their participation this time around.
However, the Villa man is keeping his fingers cross that he has left the 73-year-old Italian with food for thought ahead of the World Cup qualifiers against Sweden and Austria in March.
He said: “Hopefully I will be in the back of their minds. There will be a lot of lads coming back from injury and there will be a lot of competition for places in the squad.
“If I can keep playing week in, week out at Villa, that will stand me in good stead.”
Dunne’s absence at club level has helped to give Clark the opportunity he needs to show what he can do, and with manager Paul Lambert having been impressed by his contribution to date, he is hoping for an extended platform on which to stake his claim for regular inclusion for Ireland.
He said: “I have been playing week in, week out, which is obviously brilliant for me, in my actual position. Hopefully I can keep doing that.
“Obviously the more games I play, the better chance I have of being involved in the set-up with Ireland.
“Hopefully I can just keep playing games and I will be in the back of their minds.”
With Clark and Seamus Coleman lining up in the back four against the Greeks, the experience of skipper John O’Shea was vital, and the man who partnered him in the middle knows there is much he can learn from the Sunderland man.
Clark said: “He has got a lot of experience behind him. He has been playing for a number of years now and to be playing with someone with the experience of John is brilliant for me.
“He is someone I can learn from, the same as Richard Dunne. You just learn from the more experienced lads and hopefully I can take what they do into my game.
“Hopefully I will improve as a player.”
One lesson Clark will also have to learn is just what he can and cannot get away with in terms of the physicality of his game having picked up a 43rd-minute booking for a scything challenge on goalscorer Jose Holebas.
He said: “Playing against the foreign players, it’s a totally different mindset.
“Having said that, maybe that would be a yellow back in England – and maybe in a different game, it might have been worse.”