Former Manchester United keeper Carroll won the last of his 19 caps in 2006, falling out of favour after a breakdown in relations with former manager Nigel Worthington.
Instead, he rebuilt a faltering club career overseas, first with Danish outfit Odense and then in Greece with OFI Crete and current employers Olympiacos.
Now, having been recalled for Saturday’s friendly against Holland by new national boss Michael O’Neill, the 34-year-old hopes to do to the same to an international career he thought was at an end.
‘Of course you wonder if it’s over,’ he said of his lengthy exile under Worthington. ‘You don’t know if you’ll ever get back in or not. Things happen in football for a reason and when Michael took over I got my chance. What happened between me and Nigel is in the past now and you move on.
‘Lee is a fantastic keeper and there are a lot of other keepers too, but I’m here to fight for the No 1 shirt. It’s a squad game but with keepers there is only one spot to fight for. You have to take your chance.
‘It’s a great feeling to be back and I’m looking forward to it.’
Carroll is the oldest player in O’Neill’s 24-man squad but admits to a rush of youthful exuberance at his comeback.
With former team-mates like Aaron Hughes, Gareth McAuley, Steven Davis, Jonny Evans, Chris Baird and Chris Brunt all absent from the trip for various reasons, there are plenty of new faces for Carroll to familiarise himself with too.
‘What’s it been six years? Time flies,’ he said. ‘I’m looking forward to Saturday. If I play or come on it will feel like my debut again, it’s been so long.
‘I’m the oldest here but I’m still getting to know some of the lads and learning names. I’m older now, more chilled out but when you’re playing Holland of course there are nerves.’
Left-back Ryan McGivern was one of the standout performers in O’Neill’s first game in charge, putting in an eye-catching performance in the unflattering 3-0 defeat by Norway.
He is hoping for more of the same this time but concedes the Dutch represent the sternest test he has ever faced.
‘Apart from the result, everything went well personally in the Norway game,’ he said. ‘It was the manager’s first match and some people thought I did well. That’s a platform for me to build on and hopefully cement a place in the back four.
‘Italy were the best team we played in the last campaign and Holland are ranked a bit above them so this is probably the biggest opposition and best team I’ll have faced.’