QPR defender Masterson targets Republic of Ireland place

QPR defender Conor Masterson

QPR defender Conor Masterson is aiming to break into the Republic of Ireland side under Stephen Kenny.

New boss Kenny took over from Mick McCarthy last week – four months earlier than he was scheduled to step up from the role of Under-21s boss.

Masterson moved to west London after being released by Liverpool last summer and he impressed when given a chance in the Rangers first team.

He knows that producing those kind of performances on a consistent basis could lead to a senior international call-up.

And he has the advantage of being well known to Kenny, having played under him for the Under-21s.

“It’s definitely an aim of mine,” Masterson said.

“I know that if I play well for QPR I can put myself in the picture.

“I know Stephen well. I’ve worked with Stephen and he’s an excellent coach.

“I know he wants young players to come through and do well.”

In the short term, Masterson acknowledges there are “much more important things” than his international aspirations, given the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic.

Breakthrough season

Football matches have been suspended indefinitely, although a knee problem means Masterson would not have been involved in any case.

Masterson picked up the injury in the 2-2 draw against Birmingham at the end of February.

He returned to training shortly before Rangers’ players were told to self-isolate.

“The injury happened during the game against Birmingham,” Masterson said.

“I carried on and at the end of the game it was really sore.

“In a way it’s the best time to be injured, because there are no games.”

It has been a breakthrough season for Masterson at QPR – one he initially expected to spend the second half of out on loan.

Manager Mark Warburton rates him highly but was initially reluctant to throw him in at the deep end and instead lined him up for a move elsewhere.

However, having been given his senior debut in the FA Cup thrashing of Swansea, Masterson impressed. Plans to loan him out were later scrapped.

Seven more appearances followed and Masterson’s performances further enhanced his growing reputation.

“We did speak about going out on loan but the manager told me I was going to play in the FA Cup,” he said.

“I did well in the game and he trusted me to carry on. He believed in me and could see what I could do.

“In the next game he brought me on at Brentford when we were losing 3-0. I did well in that game and started games after that.

“I can only thank him for giving me that chance. I’m very grateful.”

‘Loving it at QPR’

Part of the reason Masterson’s impact has been so impressive is that the Swansea game was the first senior appearance of his career.

At 21, and having been a regular for his country at Under-21 level, he had still not tasted first-team football of any kind.

That was largely down to a knee injury during his time at Liverpool which meant he was not sent out on loan.

“I’d got injured and that’s probably the only reason,” he explained.

“Everybody’s path is different. I’m just delighted to have now got that chance.

“I’m absolutely loving it at QPR and am really pleased with the start I’ve made. Now I want to push on.”