DAVID Meyler hopes he can force his way into Sunderland’s midfield after proving his recovery from long-term knee ligament damage.
Meyler has enjoyed three injury-free months since returning to competitive action after fighting back from the second long-term lay-off of his short career.
The 22-year-old lasted just five first-team outings before suffering a relapse 12 months ago, having fought back from cruciate damage first sustained against Manchester United in May 2010.
But this time around, Meyler has held up to the rigours of top flight football, featuring almost 20 times for the reserves and first-team since returning in the autumn and playing 25 minutes from the bench in each of Sunderland’s last two games.
The former Cork City man is yet to start for Sunderland this season, though and that will not be easy, with Lee Cattermole, David Vaughan, Craig Gardner and Jack Colback fighting for the midfield spots.
Meyler told the Echo: “There’s very good players in midfield and that’s what all of us want – competition between positions.
“You want players pushing one another on and there’s five of us going for two spots.
“I’m just trying to get my sharpness and my match fitness back, so it’s been nice to get a couple of decent outings in the last couple of games.
“Everything’s good – I’ve been back now since the start of October and I feel fine.
“I think I’ve played five first-team games and probably 12 reserve team games. It’s just nice to be back playing after such a long time off.
“Obviously, when you come back from one serious injury and to have a set-back and a recurrence of the knee injury, it’s hard to take.
“But to come back now and play close to 20 games, including reserves, is nice.”
Meyler is at pains to point out that his focus remains solely on forcing his way into Sunderland’s starting XI, rather than harbouring any hopes of a late charge into the Republic of Ireland squad for Euro 2012.
The tireless midfielder was called up to the Ireland squad in May 2009, before his injury struck, but is adamant that any international ambitions have been put to one side.
When asked if he had half an eye on the European Championships, Meyler replied: “No, not at all. Everyone talks about it all the time because I’m Irish and I’ve been called up to the Ireland squad before, but I’m not thinking about it at all.
“It was two years ago that I was called into the squad, but I haven’t played for Ireland.
“They’ve done fantastically well to qualify, but I’m just concentrating on starting games for Sunderland.”