For proud Irishman Joey O'Brien, pulling on the emerald green shirt of his country is a feeling like no other.

The West Ham United player was considered to be one of Ireland's brightest young prospects when he broke into the senior national side just two weeks after his 20th birthday, only for a series of serious knee injuries to see his international prospects seemingly disappear forever. To O'Brien's immense credit, he battled and worked his way back to fitness.

On 15 August the 26-year-old made his fourth appearance for Ireland in a goalless friendly international draw in Serbia, nearly five years after earning his third cap in a 2008 UEFA European Championship qualifier with Cyprus. He may have been on the pitch for just eleven minutes in Belgrade, but for O'Brien they were among the best eleven minutes of his life.

"It was brilliant," he confirmed. "Obviously it was a long time since the last time I had played at an international level so it was great to meet up with the lads again."

"I didn't expect to come on as a substitute, so I was delighted to get on the pitch and I think we played really well and got a good result."

O'Brien is hoping to earn his fifth cap in Friday's opening 2014 FIFA World Cup Group C qualifier in Kazakhstan and pick up his sixth in next Tuesday's international friendly with Oman at Craven Cottage.

"We play Kazakhstan on Friday and we're playing Oman on Tuesday and, please God, I'll be involved in both matches. Hopefully we'll pick up three points in Kazakhstan and make a good start to our World Cup qualifying campaign.

"We played well over in Serbia in our last friendly match, so hopefully we'll go over there and get three points.

"The last World Cup qualifier I played in was against Cyprus, which was a long time ago, so obviously it would be great to play my part in the qualifying campaign and our aim is to try to qualify.

"I've been asked hundreds of times about my injuries but those are in the past now and for me it's all about looking forward and playing games now."

Ireland are, of course, aiming to qualify for their second major championship in succession after reaching the 2012 UEFA European Championship finals. There, Giovanni Trapattoni's side were beaten by Croatia, eventual winners Spain and runners-up Italy to go out at the group stage.

To qualify, the Boys in Green must finish in the top two of a group that also contains Germany, Sweden, Austria and Faroe Islands, but O'Brien is confident that they can do just that - regardless of the relatively small size of the Irish population and pool of available players.

"The lads did unbelievably well to qualify for the EUROs and I think the achievement of getting there was taken away by the results over there, but at the end of the day we got beaten by two of the countries who made it to the final.

"We do unbelievably well for the size of our country. We've got a great track record for producing players who go onto the world stage.

"The first time we ever qualified for anything was back in 1988, which isn't that long ago. To be able to produce players and qualify and do well in tournaments is some achievement.

"Even this time, we have a hard group but we'll be looking to qualify and that's a great way to be - it's great to be going out and knowing we can qualify."

Sunderland