Jayson Molumby will be living his dream if he gets to line up against Cristiano Ronaldo on Wednesday evening.
The 22-year-old midfielder, who last week joined West Brom on a season-long loan deal from Brighton, has established himself as a regular in Stephen Kenny’s Republic of Ireland team, who face a daunting World Cup qualifier clash with Ronaldo’s Portugal in Faro.
That would represent a significant step in the career of a man who did not make his first senior appearance for Ireland until September last year in a Nations League fixture against Finland.
Molumby said: “That’s where you want to be and that’s what I’ve been working hard to get towards since I was a little lad, so that’s definitely the dream.
“I haven’t really played in front of a packed stadium with international crowds. We had Hungary and Finland and there were a few supporters, but nothing to this extreme, so I’m just really looking forward to it.
“It will probably sink in a bit more after coming off the pitch, hopefully, that you’ve played for your country.”
Ronaldo’s impending return to Manchester United has been the talk of world football in recent days and all eyes will be on the 36-year-old superstar as he prepares to lead his country into their Group A showdown with Kenny’s men.
That fact has not been lost on Molumby and his team-mates, although it has simply served to heighten the sense of anticipation for what was already a big game.
Molumby said: “Listen, with him coming back to the Premier League looking likely, it’s obviously world football talk at the moment, so we’re obviously really excited and really looking forward to the game.”
The Republic will run out in the Algarve acutely aware that their qualification hopes are hanging by a thread after defeats in their opening two games of the Group campaign by Serbia and, ignominiously, Luxembourg, and knowing they may have to do something unexpected to alter that.
Molumby said: “Listen, football is a crazy game. I’ve probably realised that myself over the past year, it really is a crazy game and anything can happen in football.
“Look, we’re really determined to go out and put on good performances in the next games. We’re well aware that it’s down to us as players to hopefully go out and perform.”
As Kenny’s former Under-21s skipper, Molumby is one of a series of young players to be elevated to the senior ranks in the last year, a year which has brought just a single victory in 13 outings, and that in a friendly against minnows Andorra.
Asked about the pressure of making that step-up, he said: “We believe that we are good enough to be on this international level and to get wins for Ireland.
“There’s pressure in every walk of life, in football, pressure comes with the job and the higher level you get, the more that comes along.”