WREXHAM defender Shaun Holmes is in line to win his first senior cap for Northern Ireland after being named in Sammy McIlroy's squad for the friendly international against Leichtenstein in Vaduz next Wednesday.
The Daily Post broke the news of his call-up to the 21-year-old full-back yesterday and Holmes reacted with delight. "It's fantastic news and it's the icing on the cake in what has been a good year for me personally," he said.
It is the first time that the Derry-born defender has been selected for the senior side, although he got on to the bench for a World Cup qualifier against the Czech Republic last autumn.
"I was with the under-21s for their match and there were a few injuries in Sammy's squad," said Holmes. "I played half a game and was then named as one of the subs for the senior match the following day.
"When I played in Sammy's testimonial at Macclesfield just before Christmas I felt then there was an outside chance I would come into his thoughts, but when I wasn't named in the squad for the recent friendly against Cyprus it was a bit of a disappointment.
"But this news has more than made up for that and it goes without saying that I'm really looking forward to next week."
Holmes has just recovered from a toe injury that has sidelined him for Wrexham's last three games, but he is set to return in the Welsh derby against Cardiff City at Ninian Park on Friday. And Dragons manager Denis Smith said his international call was welldeserved.
"I'm delighted for him," he added. "He has done really well for us in what is his first season and while there is room for improvement, which is something he recognises, it's a reward for the all the hard work he's put in.
"Any international recognition reflects well on the club and if he continues to improve as he has this season, I will be more than pleased both for him and for us."
Closer to home, Smith has rubbished speculation linking him with the managerial vacancy at third division Hull City.
The Boothferry Park club announced that several current second division club managers had thrown their names into the hat, but Smith's is not one of them.
"The Hull chairman has definitely not had a letter from me," said the Dragons' boss, whose Racecourse contract extends to the end of next season. "I don't apply for jobs when I've already got one."
With Wrexham chairman Pryce Griffiths currently engaged in negotiations with former Chester City chairman Mark Guterman about the sale of his 78 per cent shareholding in the club, speculation about Smith's position is inevitable.
And the manager said he understood concerns, both within and without the Racecourse, about the club's future at a time when both relegation and a change of ownership were possibilities.
"It's not a worry for me because I've been there before so I take it as it comes," he insisted.
"Until pen is put to paper there is no point in getting in a flap but it's fair to say most of the players here don't know what the future holds for them at the end of the season."