Hartlepool United keeper Trevor Carson has revealed it was his decision to end his own hopes of a Northern Ireland debut.
But the 28-year-old admits it was one of the toughest decisions he has ever had to make in his career.
Carson says he was promised at least 45 minutes by international boss Michael O’Neill in the aftermath of his nation’s World Cup qualifying win over Azerbaijan a fortnight ago.
But less than 24 hours later that dream of a debut in the friendly with Croatia was in tatters.
Having taken the decision to fly back to Newcastle Airport from Belfast, Carson returned to the Pools side which beat former club Cheltenham Town 2-0. But he lasted just 35 minutes as he dislocated his finger in a challenge.
After medical checks in hospital, the keeper was sent back to Belfast for a second opinion by national team doctors.
Having been told he was touch and go, Carson took the decision to pull out of the encounter.
“In the end, it was my decision to pull out of the squad,” said the former Sunderland reserve keeper.
“My head was all over the place.
“I wanted to enjoy the build-up to the game. I knew with the injury on my mind I wouldn’t be able to do that.
“It wasn’t as if we were going to be playing against the Dog & Duck – it was world-class opposition in Croatia.
“In hindsight, I could have played, but it wasn’t to be for me.”
Carson says he did not take the disappointment of the whole affair well, although he remains positive that an international debut opportunity will resurface soon.
“It has been a flat week or two for me,” he admitted.
“It has been draining.
“I went from the euphoria of being told after the Azerbaijan game that I was going to make my debut, the manager saying I would get 45 minutes, to the injury the next day.
“I had even organised flights for my family to go over to Belfast.
“That’s football for you. It is a rollercoaster at times.
“The defeat, in the fashion it happened, at Doncaster made things even worse.
“But the win over Accrington took me from hating football to loving it again.”
Carson is again expected to be between the sticks for Pools as they travel to Stoke to take on the city’s second club Port Vale on Sunday.
And rather than be overawed by the occasion, Carson thinks Pools’ dressing-room will relish the challenge, against a side a division higher up the English Football League pyramid.
The keeper said: “It is a game we will thrive on.
“We presume they will try and play a bit of football, which will suit us.
“I see that they have a few injuries, too, which again could work in our favour.”
While some of the bigger teams choose to take the competition lightly, that was never going to be in the mind of manager Craig Hignett or his players.
The thought of a third round tie against one of the big boys is enough motivation for Carson.
He said: “The carrot of the third round draw is something difficult to beat for a lower-league footballer.
“The big incentive is to get one of English football’s big hitters.
“No game is small to any player, but the FA Cup is special. The build-up is different and the there is a buzz about the place.
“It is a one-off game with the sole aim of being in that hat on Monday.”