St Johnstone defender Dan Cleary focused on top club form to bolster Ireland call-up chance

St Johnstone centre-half Dan Cleary admits it would be a dream come true to pull on the Ireland jersey.

The 26-year-old represented his country through the youth age groups but has never made the senior step.

He is determined to come into the reckoning for a future call-up but understands that to increase his chances he must be performing at optimum level in Perth on a weekly basis.

“It’s been a dream of mine since I was a little lad,” said Cleary, who has adapted well to life at McDiarmid Park.

“All I can do is concentrate on my club football, hopefully play week in and week out and do well. We’ll see where that takes me.

“It goes without saying that the better I do here, the better my chance of getting involved at international level.

“Stephen Kenny’s doing a great job with the Ireland team and I had him as a manager before.

“It’s definitely a dream of mine. It would be a massive achievement and a dream come true if I was ever selected for the national team.

“That comes down to my performances here and how well I am doing at club level.”

Cleary’s passion to help gather Saints more points has been consistent, although operating at the bottom of a league is unfamiliar territory. At his previous club, Dundalk, the focus was up the other end.

He said: “At Dundalk, I was always at the other end of the table pushing for the league, cups and Champions League qualification.

“At this end, there is a lot more pressure.

“I am learning how you deal mentally with things at the other end of the table. I am always learning.

“I love a challenge and never shy away from it.

“That is why I signed here and I knew what I was coming into before I came in January.

“I am ready to fight until the end. Hard work is what I am based on.

“Talent is a massive part but hard work is number one.”

Saints have an outside chance of catching 10th place but victory at home to Livingston tomorrow seems a necessity.

Perth players have bottled the feeling of a last-minute winner against Motherwell before the international break.

“We’d rather have had a game last weekend, coming off our last minute win against Motherwell,” Cleary admitted. “It was a massive three points for us, you can’t deny that.

“It’s in the past now, though. We need to make sure we build on it.

“We’ve shown determination in other games but that was the first time we’ve come back to win.

“That’s huge for us mentally – to know that if we go behind we can still get the result. Everybody is still feeling good after that win, we’ve trained well and we’ll be ready for Livingston.”

Earlier in the campaign, a last-minute Ali Crawford winner netted a valuable three points in West Lothian.

“We played really well that night,” Cleary recalled.

“It was another last minute winner and a great feeling. But they’re a good side so we’ll need to be at our best.”

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