Exclusive Alan Browne PNE column: First Ireland start a dream come true
A first start for my country in last week's game against Turkey was a proud moment.
I’d had a few minutes in the friendly with Mexico last summer but to walk out on to the pitch in the starting line-up felt extra special.
It was a great experience and the only disappointment was that we lost the game.
This time it felt quite a bit different to when I was with the squad last year.
A lot of the squad were young and fresh, with a lot of new faces in it.
I knew I had a really good chance of being involved and thankfully I made the XI.
Last summer was more of a preparation for the World Cup qualifying games which were ahead of us, this time it seemed more of a new start.
It was a nice change of scenery to go to Turkey after the horrendous weather we’d had here.
Preston’s last game had been in the snow against Sunderland and within a few days we were training in the sunshine.
Getting some work under your belt in that weather is a great feeling.
The training we did with the Republic of Ireland squad was slightly different to what we do at Preston.
Every manager and coach have their own drills they like to do and a different way of going about the sessions.
At international level things can be more intense because you are only there for a few days and everyone is fighting to get a place in the team.
You’ve only got a short space of time to show what you are about and press your claim.
The game itself against Turkey we found a bit of a struggle in the first half.
We weren’t really used to the formation which the manager wanted to have a look at.
We played three at the back which I hadn’t seen us play too often in recent times.
I suppose most players are more used to 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3 but this kind of friendly gave the opportunity to try another approach.
Overall I enjoyed it, the training and the game were a big learning curve.
What always helps you settle into a situation like that, was knowing plenty of people.
Sean Maguire and Daryl Horgan were there, while I had either played with a lot of the other lads in the past or played against them.
After the game, we flew straight back and it was good to get a couple of days over the weekend to chill out and rest the legs.
I thought the tour was set up perfectly with a few days of training and just the one game.
Often in international week you have a couple of games and that can take a toll on your legs.
But four days of training and then the match on the Friday was really good for us.
My focus from the minute we got back was on Preston’s remaining games.
Easter can be a key part of the season and hopefully we can make big strides over the weekend.
We have a great chance and it is up to us to go out and take it.
There is a gap to make up but not every team is going to win all of their remaining matches.
It is about accumulating a good number of points and seeing where that takes us.
We will concentrate on one game at a time, tick them off as we go along.
The Championship is one of the toughest going and results can be unpredictable.
There have been surprise results since the start of the season and I’m sure there will others before the end.
Our next opponents are Sheffield Wednesday who we played on the opening day of the season in August.
It was a great display from us and to kick-off the season with a win was great.
We haven’t really looked back since and hopefully we can continue in that manner.
Wednesday would have hoped to have a better season than they have done but we won’t be taking them lightly by any stretch.
They will be looking to end the season on a high note so we’ll have to be on top of our game.
We will take nothing for granted and hopefully we can bring back three points.
Finally, the shirt I wore for the Republic of Ireland last week is being raffled off for a good cause.
It is to help a lad back home who had a really bad accident when the snow and ice was around recently.
He is from my area and a fund has been set-up to help with his rehabilitation.
I was asked if I could donate something and I thought the international shirt was perfect.
Hopefully it can help raise a decent amount of money and help the lad get the best possible care and treatment.