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Bruce retains Northern Ireland hope

Hull defender Alex Bruce has not given up on his Northern Ireland career.

Bruce, 30, was first called up in October 2012 having switched his allegiance from the Republic of Ireland, who had capped him twice in friendlies.

But in the intervening two years he has only managed to match that appearance record - starting in non-competitive matches against Malta and Cyprus.

His preferred position in central defence represents Northern Ireland's strongest suit - populated by the likes of Jonny Evans, Gareth McAuley, Aaron Hughes, Craig Cathcart and Chris Baird, as well as emerging talents like Manchester United's Paddy McNair and Doncaster's Luke McCullough.

While they travel to Romania this week attempting to make it four wins from four in Euro 2016 qualifying, Bruce is at home nursing a hamstring injury.

He accepts it will be no easy task forcing his way back into manager Michael O'Neill's plans but is ready for the challenge.

"It's not been an easy one for me but I feel I've got something to offer," he told Press Association Sport.

"You always want to play at the highest level possible and international football is that for me.

"I didn't play a lot for Hull early in the season so it was hard but I came back in against Liverpool and showed what I can do, so hopefully I can get back in the team and keep doing well.

"I want to be back in the squad, especially with the lads doing so well, but at the same time I think Michael knows that at my age he doesn't need to be taking me all over if he doesn't think he'll use me.

"But there's a European Championship in 2016 and there's a chance of getting there. It's a short career and that kind of chance doesn't come along often so I'd love to be involved in helping get there."

Bruce was last called up ahead of the Group F opener in Hungary but did not make the journey to Budapest due to the imminent arrival of his second child.

"I was in the squad for the Hungary match in September and trained with the lads down at Arsenal but obviously Michael knew the situation with my wife going into labour and he was honest enough to say I wasn't going to be starting so we made the sensible decision and I didn't travel," he added.

"I wasn't in the squad for the double header (against the Faroes and Greece) then, which is a shame, but they've not done too bad without me so it's hard to complain.

"I haven't spoken to Michael recently but I know he's had me watched quite a few times at Hull, so I'll just keep trying to do my best here and fingers crossed I'll hear something soon."

With hopes increasingly high that O'Neill can guide the side to a first ever European Championship, and first major tournament since the 1986 World Cup, Bruce's versatility may yet be in his favour should the manager need adaptable players in his final squad.

"I've not had a chance to play in central defence for Northern Ireland yet, which is my best position, but I've played a couple of times in midfield and I still think I can do a job there if needed," he added.

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