PNE star targets more Ireland caps

Preston North End left-back Greg Cunningham hopes to get the chance to play international football in the future after narrowly missing out on the Republic of Ireland squad for their latest two friendlies.

Monday, 28th March 2016, 5:00 pm
Updated Friday, 1st April 2016, 9:31 pm
Greg Cunningham hopes to get a chance to play for Republic of Ireland

Cunningham was named in a provisional 40-man squad for the games against Switzerland and Slovakia but missed the cut when Martin O’Neill reduced the numbers.

When it comes to ROI squads in the future, the Galway-born player has a number of positives factors going for him.

He is only 25 and is playing regularly in the Championship with North End.

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The fact that Cunningham has made three provisional squads this season indicates he is at least on O’Neill’s radar.

Cunningham said: “If I got a call-up I would be delighted.

“I have always said that I will concentrate on my club football because it is playing well there which earns you the chance of playing at international level.

“The call-up didn’t come in this international break so I’ve used the time to train and rest ready for Preston’s last eight matches of the season.”

Cunningham was capped four times by the Republic of Ireland earlier in his career.

His debut came nearly six years ago against Algeria when Giovanni Trapatonni was the Ireland coach.

He then won three more caps in 2013.

Before that, Cunningham was capped several times at Under-21s level.

If Cunningham maintains the form he has shown in a Preston shirt in his first season, he will be in with a chance of an international call again.

His switch on a free transfer from Bristol City in late July last year was not such a high-profile one.

However, he has excelled on the left-hand side of North End’s defence and has started 36 of their 38 league games – he is the joint highest starter with Daniel Johnson.

He will surely be one of the front-runners for the player of the year honour.

As well as playing down the left-hand side of PNE’s defence, as either full-back or wing-back, Cunningham has also filled in as a centre-back.

The next assignment for Cunningham and his Preston team-mates is Saturday’s local derby at Blackburn.

That is the start of the last leg of the regular season, with seven games packed into April before the curtain comes down against Leeds on May 7.

PNE will have striker Jermaine Beckford available for the run-in, Cunningham delighted to see him back to full fitness after knee surgery.

The QPR game before the international break was the first time Cunningham has been on the pitch with Beckford – the defender was injured for the two games earlier in the season when Beckford came on as a sub.

Having suffered a serious injury earlier in his career – a broken leg while on loan at Leicester – Cunningham appreciates what Beckford has been through.

“Jermaine is a top-quality goalscorer, you just need to look at his record to see that,” said Cunningham.

“He’s been through a lot this season – it is mentally draining when you get a bad injury and are out for a long time.

“Jermaine has shown what a good professional he is to get back and you could hear from the crowd’s reaction the other week, how much he is respected by the fans here.”