Republic of Ireland Under-21 manager Don Givens believes the Madeira Tournament could again nurture a future star in the making.
Givens’ squad kick-off the four-team competition today with a game against the island hosts, followed by matches with Finland tomorrow and Portugal on Friday.
It was an event the Republic won two years ago without conceding a goal in their three games, with Kevin Doyle taking the plaudits.
Doyle was then with Cork City but a summer move to Reading thrust him into the spotlight and he has not looked back since.
The 22-year-old has scored 11 goals in the Coca-Cola Championship for the runaway Royals this season, which should lead to a call-up into Republic manager Steve Staunton’s first squad for the March 1 friendly against Sweden.
Although Givens’ original 20-man squad has been decimated by withdrawals, he feels the opportunity exists for someone to follow in Doyle’s footsteps.
“It’s been chaos over the past few days,” said Givens. “It was similar two years ago when we had players pulling out, but not to this extent, and means we go into the tournament with an understrength squad.
“But it is a chance for some lads to shine and make a name for themselves, as Kevin Doyle did two years ago.
“It all started for him in Madeira, and look where he is now. He gained a lot in confidence and he kicked on himself.”
Meanwhile, Manchester City midfielder Stephen Ireland has withdrawn from the squad after picking up a groin injury against Charlton on Sunday. Waterford United midfielder Stephen Grant has been added to Givens’ squad.
Ireland fell out with Brian Kerr a few years ago at a time when the former Republic manager was in charge of the junior teams.
Ireland has not since figured for his country, but the door is now open for him to make his mark for the Republic.
“It was important to get him involved again,” added Givens. “His past history is well documented, but that is in the past.”