Ciaran Clark will head into Thursday night’s Nations League clash with Wales fuelled by the disappointment of missing out on a trip to this summer’s World Cup finals.
Clark and his Republic of Ireland team-mates came within 90 minutes of booking their trip to Russia after a 0-0 first leg play-off draw in Denmark, but saw their dream ripped to shreds as the Danes roared to a 5-1 victory at the Aviva Stadium.
Ireland return to competitive action against the Welsh, whom they famously beat in Cardiff last October to book their play-off berth, and the Newcastle defender is looking to build towards qualification for Euro 2020.
He said: “The lads would have been watching the World Cup, deep down devastated and gutted that we weren’t there. It was gutting to get so close and miss out on it.
“We want to make sure we have a good campaign now and come the end of it, we’re at a major tournament.”
The Republic will head for Wales without two men who might have played significant roles for vastly different reasons with West Ham youngster Declan Rice taking time out to consider England’s overtures, while Cardiff midfielder Harry Arter had withdrawn from the squad following a difference of opinion with assistant manager Roy Keane.
They were the main talking points as the squad assembled in Dublin, but Clark insisted the rest of the squad had to ignore the noises off the pitch.
He said: “That’s down to Declan, that’s a decision that he’s going to have to make himself, and the same with Harry.
“That’s up to the individuals to sort out their situations and for us, our situation is to concentrate on training and work hard in training to try to win the games.
“That’s it, it’s pretty simple.”
Clark met up having started all five of the Magpies’ games to date this season, none of which have resulted in victory and some of which have attracted stern criticism for the defensive approach manager Rafael Benitez has adopted against Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City amid a tough run of fixtures.
But the defender said: “If luck had gone our way, we could have had a few more points on the board. Things would have been a lot different and those things might not have been said.
“We’ve just got to keep playing as we have been, keep doing what we’re doing, and hopefully the luck will turn and we’ll get some more points on the board.”