Jack Byrne is confident the Republic of Ireland can mix it with the best as they attempt to maintain a 100 per cent start to their European Under-21 Championships qualifying campaign.
Noel King’s men opened their account with home and away victories over Andorra, and on Friday they welcome Lithuania, who have lost each of their first three Group 2 fixtures, to the RSC in Waterford before heading for Vicenza to face Italy on Tuesday.
Manchester City midfielder Byrne, who is on loan at Dutch club SC Cambuur, told FAI TV: “We want to go and first of all win on Friday and play well secondly, and then go into Italy full of confidence. They are the nations we want to be testing ourselves against.
“We got two good results against Andorra, but probably people would be expecting us to beat them, so we are looking to go and hopefully beat Lithuania on Friday and then go to Italy and test ourselves against nations that we think we can compete with this year.”
Striker Dylan Connolly’s goal handed Ireland a 1-0 home victory over the Andorrans in March, and first-half strikes from defender Tommie Hoban and midfielder Josh Cullen completed a six-point haul when they travelled to the Estadi Comunal last month and returned with a 2-0 win.
King, who had already lost Hoban and Brian Lenihan through injury for the upcoming fixtures, has had to make two further additions to his squad after Sam Byrne and Reece Grego-Cox joined them on the casualty list, with Kenny McEvoy and Harry Charsley belatedly joining up on Wednesday.