Town striker hopeful of long-awaited Ireland debut
Luton striker James Collins hopes to finally end his wait for a first Republic of Ireland cap on Tuesday night.
The 28-year-old is tipped to do just that after both David McGoldrick and Callum Robinson were ruled out of the friendly at home to Bulgaria with injury, leaving just Collins and Scott Hogan as the only two recognised forwards in the squad.
Collins, who has represented his country at U19 and U21 level earlier in his career, scoring a hat-trick for the latter in a 4-1 win over Liechtenstein in the U21 Championships back in October 2011, admitted he never gave up hope over representing the senior team.
He said: "It has been a long journey, it's my second squad now, the last squad was two qualifying games and this one, one of them's a friendly, so I‘m hoping that I can manage to get my first cap on Tuesday.
“They're (his family) going to fly out and hopefully see me get my first cap and if that is the case then it will be a great night for all my family.
"No (on giving up), I didn't think about it for a while, I just made sure my club football was going well and made sure I was doing well back at home and when you're doing well it gets recognised.
“Luckily enough the gaffer (Mick McCarthy) called me up in March and he's called me up again, so I'm delighted.
“I've been really lucky to be involved in back-to-back promotions with Luton and making that step-up to League One last year and then the Championship this year has been really special.
“It's a challenge that I’ve always wanted and this year I’m really enjoying my football.”
Boss McCarthy dropped a strong hint that Collins would get his chance at the Aviva Stadium, saying: There will be some changes against Bulgaria and the players understand that.
“Those who have travelled with us for the five competitive games without playing know that some of them will get their chances to impress in this match.
“The senior players will be able to show their support for the lads coming into the team and they will do just that.
“The atmosphere and the morale within the squad is top class and we will enjoy this fixture without the pressure of chasing three points in our bid to reach the Euro 2020 finals.”
Meanwhile, Collins’ international team-mate, Sheffield United’s John Egan, said of the Luton frontman: “He's a handful. He's a great finisher.
"Any team he's played for he's always been on the scoresheet."