As Mick McCarthy heaped more praise on Stephen Kenny’s Ireland U21s, striker Adam Idah is adamant the squad are comfortable with the growing hype surrounding them.
This evening’s Uefa qualifier against Sweden in Kalmar should provide an insight as to the level of the Ireland squad but so far, so good for a grouping tipped to supply a number of graduates to the senior squad. Back-to-back home wins in their opening pair of fixtures against Luxembourg (3-0) and Armenia (1-0) were lauded not just for the results but the style factor.
Ireland fans fatigued from watching the seniors rely on a predictable route-one approach over the years have been impressed with the alternative style from the supporting cast. Over 8,000 fans turned up over the two games at Tallaght to see them in the flesh.
Kenny has been the driver of that mindset, transporting the attacking hallmark of his Dundalk stint onto the international stage. McCarthy yesterday pinpointed Aaron Connolly’s display on Friday’s victory over Armenia as encouraging but Troy Parrot and Idah offer similar hope.
Idah struck a brace in that opening win over Luxembourg, followed by a couple more at the Toulon Tournament in France over the summer. The Cork-born striker, who recently made his first-team debut for Norwich City, is aware of the public attention, insisting the players are willing to embrace any pressure it brings.
“As players, we’re very grateful for all the interest,” said the 18-year-old.
From the big crowds we’ve got at our home matches to the bits and pieces on social media, it gives us an extra boost.
Five-times winners Italy are fully expected to clinch the one automatic place from the group into the 2021 finals, with second-seeds Swedes facing a challenge from Ireland for the runners-up spot. That will at least guarantee a play-off to be part of the expanded 16-nation tournament to be hosted by Slovenia and Hungary.
“It would be nice as a group to create history by reaching the finals but there’s a lot of games to be played yet,” added Idah. “Stephen is very clear in his meetings about what he wants from us in the games and the team has developed really well over the year.”
Idah, fresh from being granted a new contract in the summer by Canaries boss Daniel Farke, started the League Cup tie against Crawley Town. Although the team were knocked out, Farke was full of praise for his Academy graduate.
“My debut was a big night for myself and I’ve stayed training with the first-team since,” explained the former Corinthian player. “I’ve really got up to the speed of things and am ready to step in if asked. If I was to go out on loan, it wouldn’t be until January, but the manager might want to keep me around the place.”
C Kelleher (Liverpool); L O’Connor (Celtic), D O’Shea (West Brom), C Masterson (QPR), D Leahy (Bohemians); J Molumby (Millwall), C Coventry (West Ham United), J Knight (Derby County), A Connolly (Brighton and Hove Albion); T Parrott (Tottenham Hotspur); A Idah (Norwich City).