Galway native Ryan Manning has his sights set on guiding Ireland to the U21 Euro finals and earning senior promotion.
Manning will this afternoon win his fourth U21 cap against Israel at Tallaght Stadium (3.45pm, eir sport) in a 2019 Euro qualifier aiming to continue their purple patch.
Noel King’s side had won their opening pair of matches before being held scoreless by Norway on Thursday. Israel, as second seeds behind holders Germany, should provide a stiffer test but the stage is one which QPR midfielder Manning is relishing.
Ireland have traditionally underperformed at U21 level, failing to ever reach a tournament which is held every two years, but there is increased hope about this current crop breaking that trend.
Manning, who then QPR boss Harry Redknapp recruited from Galway United in January 2015 for around €70,000, has made his mark by scoring a brace in last month’s 3-1 win over Azerbaijan.
He’s racked up 22 appearances since arriving on the Championship fray with a bang on New Year’s Eve last year.
As often is the case, Manning’s second season has been a mixed bag, as he’s started just two Championship games. Once he regains his place at Loftus Road, the 21-year-old reckons he can benefit from the squad overhaul Martin O’Neill has ahead for Euro 2020.
“I wouldn’t say the senior squad is old but this World Cup campaign will be the last before a few players retire,” explained Manning.
“There are going to be some positions available in the squad over the next years so hopefully I can get involved.
“Martin O’Neill doesn’t just stick to the tried and tested players. He likes to introduce someone that deserves it. Look at Seanie Maguire’s recent promotion to the squad. It definitely instils a belief that if go from League of Ireland to England, and feature for the U21s, the call-up does come. It could happen for a few of us for the next campaign.”
For now, Israel is his sole priority. “This is a good opportunity to move onto 10 points after four games,” said Manning. “An Irish team has never had that good of a start so it would definitely put us in a good position to qualify.”
K O’Hara (Manchester United); C Whelan (Liverpool), R Sweeney (Bristol Rovers), S Donnellan (Walsall), D Kane (Huddersfield); D Rice (West Ham), J Cullen (Bolton); H Charsley (Everton), R Manning (QPR), C Ronan (Wolves); R Greco-Cox (QPR).
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