JAMIE McGrath is in a reflective mood. “I had never really thought about being on the same pitch as Cristiano Ronaldo until it happened," he says, thinking back to the night he was tasked with leading the Republic of Ireland's charge against one of the world's most famous figures. "You just never think it would happen." 

That it did during September's international break is testament to the 25-year-old's recent meteoric rise. A relative unknown when he arrived on these shores from Dundalk, he's become a key component of St Mirren's attacking play and is now firmly established in the Irish setup, starting three of their last five games. 

HeraldScotland: Cristiano RonaldoCristiano Ronaldo

But it all began on that Algarve night when McGrath found himself trying to ease the pre-match nerves while a man whose list of honours could fill the pages of most newspapers several times over stood across from him in the tunnel and shared a laugh with Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, and company. It's little wonder he laughs when he remembers the opening moments of the game. 

"Coming out of the dressing-room and in the tunnel, when you see him at first he looks like a giant and, obviously, a million dollars!" says McGrath. “He’s very tall and can jump nearly twice his height as well. 

“Once it’s on the pitch it’s different, although I did try to feel him at one stage to make sure he was real!" 

Irish hearts were, predictably, broken by Ronaldo that night when a 1-0 lead in the 89th minute was turned into a 2-1 defeat by a stunning brace from international football's male record goalscorer but that isn't stopping McGrath from counting down the days until he can face the behemoth again. 

“I am really looking forward to it, hopefully I can be involved and get some minutes," says McGrath, who was speaking in the aftermath of his club team's dull 0-0 draw with St Johnstone on Saturday. “We will do our homework, last time Ronaldo’s quality was too much in the end but we ran them close." 

McGrath wasn't the only player from the McDairmid Park snoozefest gearing himself up for several key international games. David Wotherspoon will jet off to Canada this week for two crucial games which could see the North Americans qualify for only their second World Cup. 

HeraldScotland: David Wotherspoon is hoping to lead his country to a second World Cup David Wotherspoon is hoping to lead his country to a second World Cup

“We have Mexico and Costa Rica at home, they are both really big games," said the 31-year-old, who opted for mum's nation over Scotland. "We’ve given ourselves a great chance, we are very positive about it. We have been playing well so we want to keep that going."