Republic of Ireland U21 international Daniel Kearns says he “probably wouldn’t have bothered switching” from Northern Ireland were it not for the influence of Dundalk’s new manager Seán McCaffrey.
The 20-year-old spent just over 12 months at Oriel Park under Ian Foster, who signed the youngster in August 2010 after his three-year stay at West Ham United came to an end the previous May.
Last August, he joined English Championship club Peterborough United for an undisclosed fee, after catching the eye of a number of clubs during 49 appearances for the Lilywhites.
During that time, Daniel scored nine goals, including a hat-trick in an unforgettable 5-3 win over Linfield at Windsor Park in the Setanta Sports Cup last Saint Valentine’s night, in his home city of Belfast.
While at the Boleyn Ground, Kearns played underage international football for Northern Ireland.
But it was a call from McCaffrey that saw him realise his dream as he switched to the Republic in 2010.
Since then, he has gone on to represent the Irish at U19, U21 and U23 level, and he says he owes it all to Foster’s successor.
“I think it was coming into my last year at West Ham when I first spoke to Seán,” Kearns told dundalkfc.com.
“I sent a request away at U17 level to represent the Republic. It was coming up to the U17 Championships and it was getting quite close and I didn’t think everything would be cleared in time.
“At that stage, I just thought I’d stick with Northern Ireland for the time being because I always wanted to play in the Championships.
“I thought if I switched at that time that the clearance wouldn’t go through in time or something might have happened to prevent me playing in them.
“I think it was two years after that that Seán rang up – it was coming towards the end of my last season at West Ham – and said would I be interested in coming to represent the Republic.
“Once I got off the phone, I made my decision straight away, given what he said about the setup and what he thought of me, and what way he felt I could fit into the team.
“If it hadn’t been for Seán, I probably wouldn’t have even bothered switching.”
Kearns made his Republic of Ireland bow with the U19s against Poland in April 2010, and scored the only goal against the same oppositions two days later on his full debut as the countries played a double-header friendly.
In total, he made four appearances under McCaffrey, adding two more against England and Bosnia & Herzegovina in the Elite qualifying stage, held in Ukraine, for the UEFA European U19 Championships.
“Seán is very good as a manager and a coach,” Kearns said.
“He’s very good in the dressing room. He knows what things to say and he can build you up with great confidence before games.
“On the training pitch, he would always get involved and stop it and coach it, and tell you the right things.
“He was a great coach and I loved playing under him because, like I say, he made you feel confident and got the best out of you.
“He was a massive influence in me getting my first cap for the Republic. We had a couple of friendlies against Poland.
“I know they were only friendlies but Seán drafted me in, and I really enjoyed them. I was delighted when I got the call to come in for those friendlies, and obviously I travelled for the Championships in Ukraine.
“It was a great experience and I can’t thank him enough for what he has done for me.”