CJ Hamilton is hoping to complete a remarkable journey from non-league football to the international stage when the Republic of Ireland face Ukraine on Wednesday evening. PIC: Sportsfile
CJ Hamilton is hoping to complete a remarkable journey from non-league football to the international stage when the Republic of Ireland face Ukraine on Wednesday evening.
The 27-year-old Blackpool winger has been included in Stephen Kenny’s squad for their four Nations League fixtures this month and has his fingers crossed that a senior cap will come his way before his summer break.
Hamilton, who grew up in Waterford, was playing his football with National League Gateshead six years ago having concentrated on Gaelic football and hurling in the Déise until he was 12, and only recently emerged on Ireland’s radar after belatedly making his way in England.
He said: “I never put myself out there because I never thought I’d play football when I first left. It was a bit of a random one.
“When I started playing football, I went under the radar because I was at a level where I didn’t think I’d ever get called up.
“As soon as they found out I was Irish, it was quite quick to get sorted. And then based on performances, I earned a call-up.”
Hamilton, whose mother and sister still live in Waterford, moved to England as a teenager and was handed his chance in the game as a trainee at Sheffield United, but did not make a senior appearance for the club and, after spells with non-league Gateshead and Halifax, joined Mansfield during the summer of 2016.
However, he has risen to prominence since his switch to Blackpool in 2020 and having, in Kenny’s words, walked “the road less travelled”, is intent on taking a few more steps along it.
Asked if he still had a lot to achieve, he said: “Definitely. I feel like I was a late starter, I always started things late – I didn’t sign pro until I was 19. Some boys were in academies, I never had that.
“I feel I’m getting better as I get older. I still feel fit, fresh and am raring to go.
“I just love the journey. You always try to achieve as much as possible and when you do go over to England, it’s hard to try and do that because there are so many boys in the same position as you.
“It’s about having a good attitude, working hard – and I’ll always work hard whether in training or doing extras on the pitch. I’ll always give my best and it’s got me to where I am today.”
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