Republic of Ireland Under-21 manager Don Givens has urged his players to take heed of Huddersfield’s League One play-off semi-final misery as they target European success.
Givens pitches his side into battle against Azerbaijan tomorrow and will motivate his players by warning them of the danger of considering their work to be already done.
Huddersfield probably had half an eye on the League One play-off final after beating Barnsley 1-0 in the first leg of their tie at Oakwell last Thursday.
But Barnsley had other ideas, and won the second leg 3-1 at the Galpharm Stadium for a 3-2 aggregate victory, giving Givens food for thought.
His Under-21s take a 2-1 lead into the home leg of their European Championships preliminary round tie against the Azeris at Buckley Park in Kilkenny, courtesy of two goals from Scunthorpe’s Andy Keogh who turned 20 yesterday.
They came from behind in Baku last Thursday, with Keogh’s second goal coming in the 88th minute.
“We feel we have done the hardest bit, but we have to stay focused,” insisted Givens.
“You ony have to look at what happened to Huddersfield to know that if you are not on the ball, then this game can smack your behind.
“I watched that game on Monday, as did some of the lads, and I will remind them of it when I speak to them ahead of our game.
“As a squad, we will be doing everything in our power to make sure it doesn’t happen to us, and that we are totally concentrated on the job.”
Givens will make just one change to his side, and that is enforced with goalkeeper Darren Quigley suspended after being sent off for violent conduct in the dying moments of the first leg.
Walsall’s Rene Gilmartin, whose debut lasted just 20 seconds, will now make his first start – after just three games for the Saddlers last season.
The 18-year-old was only drafted into the Under-21s due to Millwall’s Colin Doyle requiring surgery, and with Darren Randolph of Charlton and Ipswich’s Shane Supple ahead of him in the pecking order for the Under-19s squad who are in Slovakia for the elite phase of the UEFA Championships.
“All Rene did last week was kick the ball and then the whistle blew,” recalled Givens.
“It wasn’t much of an outing for him, but now he has his chance and it is up to him to come in and grab it.”
With Brentford knocked out of the play-offs by Swansea on Sunday, striker Jay Tabb has joined the squad, along with Bohemians forward Stephen Ward.
Victory for the Republic will see them qualify for the group stages where Belgium and Greece await.