Ireland U21 boss Noel King insists more gems from his squad that faces Norway in tonight’s friendly in Drammen (6pm, Irish time) will follow Brian Lenihan into the senior fold.
The Hull City defender had sampled only 45 minutes at U21 level — in a friendly against Qatar in May while still a Cork City player — before Monday’s shock call-up from Martin O’Neill.
King has overseen the graduation of Seamus Coleman, James McCarthy, Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick during his tenure and believes his current crop, including Lenihan’s former City team-mate Alan Browne, should aim to emulate their feat.
“The door to the senior squad is open for this squad,” said King yesterday. “Many of their team-mates from the earlier underage squads have already made the step up and we’re delighted Brian has been selected by Martin in such rapid fashion.
“I’m certain there are players with us here in Norway who will win full caps in the future.”
King is using the period before the draw for the next European Championship qualifiers in February to assemble a new squad.
“We’ve another two games against USA and Russia in Marbella next month, so we’ll have had a good look at the players available to us by that point,” King explained.
“Winning is important but the priority is to give all the squad a run-out at some stage today.”
IRELAND (probable): I Lawlor (Man City); S Long (Reading), E O’Connell (Celtic), T Hoban (Watford), J Connors (Dagenham & Redbridge); D Lenihan (Blackburn Rovers), A Browne (Preston NE); D Connolly (Shelbourne), J Byrne (Man City), K McEvoy (Peterborough Utd); S Byrne (Everton).
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