Exclusive Alan Browne Preston North End column: High hopes for the Euros despite defeat
It was certainly a bitter-sweet night for me on Tuesday when I made my first competitive start for the Republic of Ireland against Switzerland in Geneva
On a personal level, it was great that the manager Mick McCarthy trusted me for such a big game in our European Championship qualifying campaign.
Unfortunately, it did not pan out like we had hoped it would do and we went down to a 2-0 defeat to a strong Swiss side.
They are a very good team with a lot of good individuals and they are probably the best side in the group.
We knew it was always going to be tough especially away from home for us to get the win.
We found it really difficult on the night and it was disappointing because three points would have put us within touching distance of qualifying.
The early goal that they got through Haris Seferovic changed the complexion of the tie and Shane Duffy’s unfortunate own goal came in stoppage time.
It is our first defeat in the group, but it means we are up against it going into our final qualifier against Denmark in Dublin next month.
It is between ourselves, the Danes and Switzerland for the two automatic qualifying spots .
We are going to be up against it but considering the group we found ourselves in and the calibre of teams in it, I think if somebody had said that it would come down to the last game and we need to win – we would have taken that.
It’s one game now away from qualifying and we will go up against them with every intention of winning.
I think the way we performed in the second half against Switzerland will give us the belief that we can beat Denmark.
In the first half we sat off them and probably showed them a bit too much respect, but we came out after half-time, knowing that we had to go up against them and be expansive.
We will need to do the same for the full 90 minutes against Denmark and if we do that in front of a home crowd in Dublin we can get the win which will hopefully be enough to see us qualify.
It’s been a busy week or so for me – I also came on as substitute on Saturday in our draw against Georgia in Tblisi, but I am fully fit and looking forward – if selected – to this weekend’s game at Reading.
Having started in midfield on Tuesday night, I played the last quarter of an hour at right-back following Seamus Coleman’s sending off.
It is a position I have played in a number of times this season for Preston.
I must admit I would like to nail down one position but it’s always good to have that versatility because it offers you another opportunity of being in the team.
To be able to switch different positions is a benefit for me and gets me more minutes on the pitch.
That’s how it’s been this season and how it worked out the other night for my country.
I would not say playing right-back comes easy to me because that would be disrespectful to regular right-backs.
But I like to think I can do a job there. It’s a position which does give you more time on the ball, although I probably could be better defensively.
Obviously, the manager Alex Neil used me as an emergency centre-half last season when we were hit by injuries and it’s nice that he trusts me to fill in when required.
As long as I am helping out the boys and we are winning games of football, I don’t mind.
I think the great thing about the squad at PNE this season is that you’re happy to get a shirt no master what position because the competition for places is so high.
It is fair to say we have had good start and we are really happy to be where we are – third in the Championship.
As a squad, we are still young but it is maturing and I think that is showing in the results we have had.
We have a had a couple of seasons where we have challenged for the play-offs and narrowly missed out, but I think that will only benefit us in the long run.
I think we are getting experienced and clever at knowing when we can go and win a game or just take a point on offer.
That is especially so away from home.
We are on the road this weekend. The Royals have not had the best of starts but they have got a new manager in Mark Bowen and that is always hard because you have no idea how they are going to set up. But hopefully we can go there and keep our eight-match unbeaten run going.