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O'Dowda is on mission to emulate role model McClean

World Cup Qualifying Group D: Rep of Ireland v Austria, Aviva Stadium, Sunday, 5.00pm

By Damian Spellman

Callum O'Dowda has vowed to follow in the footsteps of James McClean as he attempts to establish himself as a Republic of Ireland international.

Twelve months ago, the now 22-year-old capped a successful League Two season with Oxford by making a surprise senior international debut against Belarus as the Republic completed their preparations for the Euro 2016 finals.

On Sunday, he will hope to play some part in the World Cup qualifier against Austria having adopted as a role model a man whose career to date has been nothing if not eventful.

O'Dowda, who made a first start for his country against Mexico in New Jersey last week, said: "You look at when James McClean came onto the scene -he's the kind of player I want to be like.

"When I get the ball, I want everyone to kind of get a bit up themselves, that's the kind of stuff I want to be doing.

"If it's against Austria or if I come on and do something, that's the stuff I want to be doing, and that could transform into a start. They're the key things that can happen.

"Now a year into it, I have really settled in the camp. Even the start against Mexico - I obviously wanted to impact the game a bit more, but in key moments, like late on where I think I should have scored, that's the kind of stuff I want to be doing every time I get on the field.

"Whether it's against Austria at the weekend, that's the stuff I want to be doing."

McClean has completed the journey upon which O'Dowda is just setting out having negotiated the path from promising youngster to seasoned international, in his case not without incident.

The maturing West Brom midfielder has won the praise of manager Martin O'Neill during the current campaign having contributed decisive goals in the qualifier victories in Moldova and Austria, as well as demonstrating his rich vein of form with a fine strike in Sunday's 3-1 friendly win over Uruguay.

O'Dowda said: "He has been really good to me, just little things in training. We're big pals as well off the pitch, so that helps.

"He's the kind of player... his running power, for example - I want to do stuff that he does. I like to implement what he does on the pitch as well.

"It helps when I'm training with him. He's the kind of player I want to turn out to be like."

O'Dowda's potential was acknowledged when Bristol City handed him the chance to play Sky Bet Championship football last season, although 20 of his 39 appearances came as a substitute.

Asked what he has to do to improve upon that, he replied: "I think it's consistency, if I'm honest. It happens with a lot of players, it's keeping the standard up and just being brutally honest.

"That's the thing at club level, you need to do really well there and it helps here because obviously you don't get much time when you are with Martin O'Neill and (assistant manger) Roy (Keane), they don't get to see much of you.

"That's where they're watching you, they're watching you at club level in the games, so it's having a good season next year.

"I've put a really high mark on myself of how well I want to do. I have had chats with Lee Johnson, my manager at Bristol City, about it.

"I want to have a really good season there and hopefully with the momentum of that, it will help me next year as well."

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