Fresh from his own brief tenancy in charge of the Ireland senior team, U21 boss Noel King delivered positive tidings yesterday when he met new manager Martin O’Neill for the first time.
O’Neill and assistant Roy Keane, will be working over the next week with a squad selected by King, his last act before signing off as caretaker chief after Giovanni Trapattoni’s sacking.
The new management team were given a guided tour of Aviva Stadium before heading for a sit-down with King to pick his brains on the talent pool available.
“It’s good for Ireland and the FAI that it’s sorted and the two men can go about the job and hopefully qualify us for the next European championships,” said 57-year-old King, who presided over the concluding World Cup qualifiers against Germany and Kazakhstan.
“It’s an exciting time for the country and hopefully it works out.”
O’Neill has already made it clear he intends utilising the ancestry rule to expand his options and King, wearing his hat as U21 boss, says he will enlist his superiors’ assistance to encourage his targets in choosing Ireland.
Chelsea striker Patrick Bamford, with 12 goals this term on loan at League One MK Dons, is currently weighing up an invitation to climb aboard while Liverpool’s highly-rated defender Ryan McLaughlin, born in Belfast, could be recruited. Two other players King has tracked but cannot feature in this qualifying campaign — Manchester United striker Will Keane and Connor Wickham of Sunderland — may also be tempted into the senior fray by the lure of O’Neill and Keane.
“If one of those two men picks up the phone to you and says that they want you to be part of their plans as a young man, I think that would be huge for us,” said King.
Infamously, Trapattoni didn’t attend a single Irish underage international. “I’m led to believe Martin will be more hands-on,” asserted King. “We’ll manage the U21s and if he wants to have players up and training with him, whatever he wants, we will try to facilitate it.”
For Ireland’s U21s, only two wins will suffice over the next week to keep their own qualificatio hopes alive. They face the Faroes in Sligo on Friday (3.45pm), then travel to face Montenegro in Podgorica next Tuesday.
*Norwich midfielder Anthony Pilkington is a doubt with a dead leg for Ireland’s clash against Latvia on Friday.
IRELAND U21 squad: A McCarey (Wolves), S McDermott (Sandnes Ulf), M Doherty (Wolves), M Harriman (Gillingham), S Duffy (Yeovil), S McGinty (Sheff Utd), D Williams (Bristol City), A O’Connor (Torquay), C Dunne (Wycombe), J O’Sullivan (B’burn), J Shaughnessy (Aberdeen), C Reilly (Birmingham C), A Forde (Wolves), S Murray (Watford), S Carruthers (MK Dons), J Grealish (Notts Co), A O’Brien (Millwall), W Hayhurst (Preston), C Smith (Watford).
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