Robbie Keane advice helping Republic of Ireland forward Callum O'Dowda
By James Dale
Last Updated: 10/11/16 1:57pm
Callum O'Dowda has taken advice from Robbie Keane in a "crazy" year leading to his Republic of Ireland selection.
Last November the forward was playing League Two football for Oxford United, but 12 months on he could feature in his nation's World Cup Qualifier against Austria on Saturday, live on Sky Sports 1.
O'Dowda impressed Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill after helping Oxford achieve promotion to League One last season, and was included in the preparation squad for Euro 2016 in the same summer he earned a move to Sky Bet Championship side Bristol City.
"If I'm honest, it has been a bit crazy," he said, reflecting on the last year. "Obviously I set out to get promotion with my home-town club Oxford, achieved that - which was big for me - and then you've got the surprise inclusion in the Ireland squad.
"I had a previous conversation after the Italy game with the Under-21s with the manager, who said that he was going to keep on watching me at Oxford and he said, 'I'll try and bring you in in the future' and then just around the corner, I was included.
"And then after the Euros, the move to Bristol City came about."
O'Dowda made his first competitive appearance for his country in October's 3-1 World Cup Qualifier victory in Moldova, and the 21-year-old revealed he is learning from members of the national set-up, past and present.
Asked to whom he had looked up during his formative years as a player, O'Dowda said: "Probably the big one is Robbie Keane.
"He has always been a legend to this nation and I've had the privilege of training with him and being around him. I've had a few conversations and a few words of advice, so it's been a real privilege.
"In training, he was always helping me out saying what he thinks, his opinion of what I should be doing.
"But to be honest they all have, especially Seamus Coleman. After training, I'll be doing some 1v1s with him and he'll be saying to me what he finds is hard to defend when attackers go up against him and what they do, so I try and do what can hurt them."
O'Dowda has played an important role for Bristol City as they sit just outside the play-off positions, but the winger says he cannot be afforded the same luxuries as Cristiano Ronaldo in the Championship.
"You find a lot of the top strikers, the top wingers, they can't really do the other side of the game," he said.
"Even like [Cristiano] Ronaldo, some big games [for Manchester United] he'd be playing up front. Fergie [United boss Sir Alex Ferguson] would play him up front because he couldn't really rely on him on the defensive work.
"But I'm always trying to improve my game."