Stephen Ward hopes to put Wolverhampton Wanderers’ miserable season behind him as the Republic of Ireland prepare to tackle the European Championships.
The Molineux defender was part of the Wolves side which finished bottom following a dreadful campaign.
As he prepares for a life in the Championship, Ward is determined to make the most of the forthcoming Euros.
Ireland will be based in the northern town of Sopot in Poland and play their first game this Sunday, against Croatia, in Poznan.
Ward insists Giovanni Trapattoni’s men need to get the right result this weekend given their next games are against Spain and Italy.
“Hopefully we can do ourselves proud at the tournament,” said Ward.
“The group could have been a bit nicer to us but when you get to the Euros there are no easy groups.
“There are 16 top quality teams there and we’re all really excited about it and raring to go.
“It is a tough group but we are a good squad and a tight-knit unit.
“We’ve also got a world class manager who knows how to win games and knows tournament football.
“I think we can be a match for anyone.
“I am sure if you asked the players and management of the other three teams we are probably the one team they didn’t want to come out in their pot.
“Hopefully we will go there, play well and do ourselves proud, and it should be great for the country and great for the fans.
“Croatia is a vital game which we must not lose.
“That would keep us in it going into the third game and if we go into Italy needing a result then we would take that.
“The manager will know everything there is to know about them and there is no better manager to lead us into that game.
“We’ve got a decent record against the Italians and drew with them twice in World Cup qualifiers and have beaten them 2-0 at a neutral venue in Belgium.
“If we can go into that game with a chance of getting through it will be great.”
Ward added: “It’s been a long, tough season and a lot of lows at Wolves.
“But for myself and the Irish lads it’s great we are in the squad.
“There is no better remedy than going out to represent your country at a major championships.
“I am sure Poland will be taken over by an Irish invasion. We’re really looking forward to it.”