Monday 24 October 2016

Club form a boost for boss King

Ireland Under-21 star Jack Byrne
Ireland Under-21 star Jack Byrne

Ireland U21 team boss Noel King hopes that his side will reap the benefits as his players get more exposure to first team football.

The Irish lads are in action in the European Championship qualifiers today, away to Lithuania (4.30pm Irish time), hoping to bounce back from a narrow defeat away to Italy last month.

King is in the fortunate position of having a full-strength squad, with Josh Cullen and Jack Connors likely to overcome knocks in time to play in Vilnius.

The Irish boss has also seen players get some much-needed experience of late and while for some that means loan spells (keeper Danny Rogers at Falkirk, midfielder Jack Byrne at Cambuur in Holland), it's a good sign for King.

"Most of them have played some form of first team football by now and that means a lot," says King.

"They are not all regulars but they are getting games, like Josh Cullen playing for West Ham.

"It's a huge step forwards in their development, hopefully they will do well here in this game, get more experience with their clubs and we'll be in an even strong position for the next games in March.

"In the past, I have seen a very positive change in form from players who are in the first team at their clubs and I think that's the case here now with this group, they learn and get confidence and that can only be good for Ireland."

Ireland began well with three wins from three games before the loss to Italy, and the aim is to have four wins on board before the group resumes in 2016.

"Four wins from five would be a good return, especially as we will have already played Italy away," he says.

"We're here in Vilnius to win the game, we beat them 3-0 at home, they are a big, physical side but hopefully we have enough about us to get the win."

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