Doncaster forward Kieran Sadlier’s initial reaction to his first call-up to the Irish senior squad was one of shock. In truth, it probably shouldn’t have been.
The 24-year-old has adjusted well to life back in English football after his move to the Keepmoat from Cork City in December of 2018, with last year’s return of three goals in just 14 league games the ideal base upon which to build ahead of his first full campaign.
This season, Sadlier enjoyed the beauty of a pre-season, something he hadn’t been afforded last year, and in his first three games he has found the net on two occasions, including a stunning volley against Gillingham.
Sadlier’s standout start to the season has also caught the eye of Irish manager Mick McCarthy who rewarded the former Cork City man with his first call-up to the senior side for the games against Switzerland and Bulgaria.
He was one of the 40-men included in McCarthy’s provisional squad and detailed the process of his first ever Irish call-up to Pundit Arena.
“I was in the leisure centre going to the pool doing a few stretches, things I normally do,” began Sadlier.
“I came out of there and looked at my phone and I had a few messages from family and friends about the usual stuff and then I had another message and a missed call.
“It was from Doncaster and it was basically to say ‘congratulations, you’re in the provisional Irish squad’ so I called them back and I had no clue, that was the first time I’d heard of it. It was a nice surprise.
“I called my family and that and told them the news, it was a bit strange. It was literally about half an hour before it was announced.”
Sadlier has played for the Boys in Green at U15, U16, U19 and U21 levels, with his last international appearance coming almost five years ago, in an U21s draw against Russia.
The forward also explained that he was initially surprised by the call-up but was confident that his strong start to the campaign with Doncaster would see him in contention.
“I was surprised but it was a target of mine. I knew I’d gotten off to a good start this season and I knew if I did have a decent start then I’d be in contention for this squad.
“Obviously you never really think you’re going to get the call-up to the senior team, you don’t take that for granted, you just hope that you’re included. I’m over the moon, I’m really pleased.”
With 17 players for McCarthy to cut, Sadlier is well aware that he may not make the final squad. He knows his chance will come though, especially if his form continues at club level.
One could argue that Sadlier deserved his chance earlier, given his sparkling form in his final season at Turner’s Cross which saw him net 26 goals in 46 games. Martin O’Neill name dropped him, but in the end the call never came.
Whether he makes the final 23 for McCarthy’s men remains to be seen, but where he is now, is a far cry from where he was as a 21-year-old, when he made the decision to join Sligo Rovers after leaving West Ham in between as unsuccessful spells at St Mirren and Peterborough.
Sadlier knew little about the League of Ireland when he first signed for Sligo under his former Posh manager Dave Robertson and the move was seen by many, including himself, as a massive gamble.
During his two seasons at The Showgrounds though, he soon found his feet and with an extended run of senior games for the first time in his career, he was able to hone his craft and develop as a player.
This led to a move to Cork City where he again took another step-up before he was rewarded with a return to the league he had left three and a half years previous. This time though, he was going back across the water as a much more mature version of himself.
His first call-up now represents another milestone in his career, and further proof that his gamble in joining Sligo Rovers as a 21-year-old has, so far at least, paid off.
“It shows that my hard-work is paying off. The fact that I went over to Ireland for three years, I took a gamble really going over there.
“At the time I didn’t know too much about the league, I was coming out of professional football in England going from League One to League of Ireland, I wasn’t playing in League One but I still feel as though I took a gamble and it’s paid off eventually.
“I really have to thank the League of Ireland because they gave me that platform to showcase my ability, it’s a great place to play and that’s what got me my move back to England and I’ve kicked on from there.”