Conor Sammon: Derby County switch has helped me earn call-up
CONOR Sammon says joining Derby County has played a big part in his first call-up to the Republic of Ireland's senior squad.
The 26-year-old striker has been a regular starter for the Rams since his summer move from Wigan Athletic where he was starved of first-team opportunities.
He has scored seven goals in 26 starts and his form has caught the eye of Giovanni Trapattoni who has named Sammon in his squad for the friendly against Poland in Dublin on February 6.
His Derby team-mates Richard Keogh and Jeff Hendrick are also in the 27-man squad.
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Sammon represented his country at under-21 level and never lost hope of playing international football at senior level.
"Whenever anyone asked me about it before I always said that I need to focus on playing week in, week out at club level to give myself the best chance, and that's what has happened," said Sammon.
"Looking back, it is the best decision I've made moving to Derby.
"I am playing week in, week out and under a manager who has got a lot of belief in me.
"That was always my thinking. If I could get back to playing regularly and get back to enjoying playing and improving as a player, that would give me the best chance of a call-up.
"When I was at Wigan, it was very nice to be able to say I was playing in the Premier League but I was in and out of the team.
"Playing regularly is the only way you are going to improve as a player.
"That was a massive reason for moving, to get more games and settle into a team. I feel I have done that.
"I cannot thank the manager enough, and my team-mates, for helping me.
"I am loving my role in the team at Derby."
Sammon played for UCD and Derry City in the League of Ireland before playing for Kilmarnock and then Wigan.
His last appearance for his country was in an under-21 international five years ago.
He received a text from Derby to inform him of his call-up.
"I was very surprised," said Sammon.
"I had heard that he (Trapattoni) was watching some of our games and I'm just delighted that I have managed to catch his eye, and delighted as well for Jeff and Richard.
"Having three players named in one squad is great recognition for the club and the work that is being done.
"Ever since I came to Derby I have been impressed with the set-up, the manager and the coaching staff."
Republic of Ireland face two World Cup qualifiers in March against Sweden and Austria. Sammon is hoping he and his Derby team-mates, Keogh and Hendrick, can make an impact and stay involved with the national team.
"It's a great opportunity for myself, Richard, Jeff and any of the other boys who have been included for the first time to stake a claim and show what we can do," said Sammon.
"If we can do that, who knows what can happen.
"With the massive games in the qualifying campaign coming up, I'd love to be part of that."
Sammon is one of six strikers in a squad that does not include captain Robbie Keane, who is rested.
"Look at the names – Shane Long, Jonathan Walters, Kevin Doyle, Simon Cox and Andy Keogh – they are all really good players, and they have played international football for many years," said Sammon.
"But I have always had confidence in my own ability.
"The manager has obviously seen something in me to include me in the squad and I am looking forward to linking up with the squad, training with them and hopefully getting a chance to play against Poland."
Keogh, Derby's captain and central defender, says his call-up is a proud moment for him.
"I heard the manager was coming to watch a couple of our games but you still have to concentrate on doing well for Derby," he added.
"To get a call-up, not just for me but also for Jeff and Conor, is a really proud moment.
"I got a text from Clare, the secretary at Derby, and then from the FAI. When I got the text from the FAI it confirmed it because there was still a bit of disbelief.
"Hopefully I can join up with the squad, work really hard and be involved against Poland because it will be a great experience."
Like Sammon, Keogh always hoped the call would come.
"It is something I have always wanted," said the 26-year-old.
"I had played for the under-21s, and when I signed for Derby it (playing for Ireland again) was something I thought might happen.
"I never gave up on that hope.
"I knew if I could play well for Derby and the team was playing well, I would have a better chance.
"But the most important thing is that I keep playing well for Derby and then hopefully I can stay involved in the Irish squad."
Hendrick has represented his country at all the youth levels and has become a key player at under-21 level.
The midfielder says he is delighted to be in the senior squad.
"When you are growing up watching the national team, playing for them one day is something you dream of," said the 20-year-old.
"I am just happy to be involved. I'll work hard and see what happens.
"It was a bit of a shock because I still have about two or three years left with the under-21s.
"My family is delighted for me. The phone has not stopped ringing with people congratulating me."