Alan Browne is aiming for success in the Nations League after helping to enhance the Republic of Ireland’s burgeoning confidence by leading them to an impressive draw with Belgium.
Browne came off the bench in the FAI centenary game on Saturday to bring the world number one team to 2-2, in the process extending Ireland’s unbeaten run to seven games.
Growing confidence within the team prompted defender Shane Duffy to suggest during the build-up that they should be looking to win their Nations League group, which also includes Ukraine, Scotland and Armenia, when the competition starts in June, and Browne believes that it is a realistic ambition.
The Preston midfielder said: “Our performances over the last year or so: I know we got a lot of flak early on, but I think we’ve turned the page now and are getting results to match the performances.
“Our performances, even early on, have been really good, we just didn’t have the results to match them. When they go hand in hand, it’s a good day for everyone.
“We will go into the campaign full of faith and with the winning mentality that was instilled in us. It’s definitely realistic that we can go and win it.”
That is a view shared by coach Stephen Kenny, who, however, is well aware that the current situation in Ukraine could have a major impact on a tournament he knows will test his team’s burgeoning momentum.
Kenny, whose team takes on Lithuania on Tuesday night, said: “It’s better to have positive results, but it’s good to have good performances like that for sure.
“It reinforces the message that we are giving and people see that you are having success with that.
“It reinforces belief and that can be powerful when you do that, when you play against top-class international players.
“We have a lot to do. We don’t know the situation with Ukraine – they reached the quarterfinals of the European Championship, they did it brilliantly before that.
“It is a tragic situation. Scotland has been terrible. Armenia, we are learning about Armenia.
“It’s a tough group with Scotland and Ukraine but we’re looking to improve all the time, we’re getting better and we’re building a team and we want to try to do ourselves justice in that.”
Regardless of how the summer program plays out, Ireland will head into it with a radically revised squad and a newfound confidence epitomized by none other than Rotherham’s Chiedozie Ogbene.
Playing his club’s football as a full-back in League One, Ogbene has excelled since his arrival on the international stage and scored his third goal in six appearances, a skillfully executed header, against the Belgians.
His teammate Jason Knight said: “Chieo has been a breath of fresh air since joining the team. He’s great on the spot and his performances have been excellent.
“We just need more of that and for the rest of the team to move on.”