Noel King will send his Republic of Ireland Under-21s side into friendly battle with Denmark tomorrow pleased that they will face a stern test.
Ireland chose the Danes as their opposition at Tallaght Stadium confident that tough opposition would provide them the preparation they need ahead of next Monday’s Euro 2013 qualifier against Italy.
King said: “They are a very strong team. They are in a group with Serbia and Northern Ireland – I’m sure the Northern Ireland influence has influenced them to play us.
“They have a great tradition of football, they are always strong, as we know about the Scandinavian type, so it will be a tough task.
“But it’s a good game for us. There was no point in getting a weaker side because Italy pose a huge threat.”
With most of King’s players currently plying their trade in England, many have not tasted competitive action for some time because of the early conclusion to the Football League season.
As a result, he is hoping the Denmark game will help to blow away any cobwebs and get his side back up to full speed.
He said: “It’s become very important because so many lads haven’t played games in a number of weeks.
“There are other lads who played last week, so there are different variations of levels of fitness. It’s important we get enough training in before the Denmark game, and then use the Denmark game as well to up the fitness levels just to revive them, if you like, so it’s key.”
The Republic currently lie in third place in Group seven behind the Italians, who have a 100% record in their five games to date, and Turkey, the only side to date to have beaten Ireland.
King’s men trail the Turks, who have played two games more, by three points, and face them at home in August.
As a result, the next two qualifiers are likely to have a major say in Ireland’s destiny.
King said: “The next two? They could – if the results go against us, they could. If the results go for us, it will just keep us in the battle. I would be hoping that we can stay alive for as long as possible.”
King added Ipswich’s Ronan Murray and Paddy Madden of Carlisle to the initial squad following the withdrawal of Inverness Caledonian Thistle winger Aaron Doran through injury, while Sunderland defender John Egan and Eunan O’Kane of Torquay will hope for first caps at Under-21 level.