The Republic of Ireland Under-21s will field a largely experimental side in this week’s Madeira invitational tournament after losing a host of the original squad members.
But boss Don Givens refuses to be downbeat despite losing star names including Sunderland’s Anthony Stokes, Celtic’s Darren O’Dea and Ipswich’s Shane Supple.
This tournament has proved to be a happy hunting ground for Ireland in the past - they have emerged victorious in each of their two previous visits to the island.
Givens is boosted the fact that he first used Reading striker Kevin Doyle in the successful 2004 side and last year’s tournament produced senior caps in Stokes and Newcastle’s Alan O’Brien.
Stephen Ward, now at Wolves, was the player of the tournament last year while still at Bohemians.
“This tournament has developed a familiar pattern for us in that we tend to go in with a lot of untried lads but they always seem to deliver for us,” said Givens.
“Although preparation is very difficult to organise, we always seem to do well because our guys never lack for heart and effort.
“I’ll be looking at this week as an opportunity to really get to know the younger lads in the under-21 age group, to see who can do a job for us in the future.
“It’s also good to work with some of the best young players in the eircom League and see what they’re capable of at this level.”
Senior international team manager Steve Staunton will attend tomorrow’s opening fixture against Slovakia in Funchal which kicks off at 6pm.
The Irish face Madeira on Wednesday afternoon before rounding off the tournament against Portugal on Friday morning.
Republic of Ireland squad: Rene Gilmartin (Walsall), James Russell (Chelsea); Tony Kane (Blackburn), Joe O’Cearuill (Arsenal), Stephen O’Halloran (Aston Villa), Kieran Murphy (MK Dons), Michael Synnott (Ipswich), Conor Powell (Bohemians), James O’Brien (Celtic), John-Paul Kelly (Bohemians), Ian Morris (Scunthorpe), James Chambers (Shelbourne), Gary Curran (Sligo Rovers), Ronan Finn (UCD), James Simmonds (Cardiff City), Jon Hayes (Reading), Billy Clarke (Ipswich), Billy Dennehy (Sunderland), David Bracken (Glenavon), Ross Gaynor (Millwall).