King hopes to see green shoots from U21s
Noel King hopes that a new breed of Ireland U21 players can go on to deliver on the early promise which they have started to show.
The Irish side have three games left in their qualifying campaign for the 2017 U21 Euro finals, those finals to be held in Poland, but the boys in green are well out of the running and are just playing for pride in the double header against Slovenia (tonight) and Serbia (Tuesday), with a second game against the Serbians, at home, to come.
With players missing due to injury, suspension and also a call-up to the senior squad, for Callum O'Dowda, King has a new-look panel for tonight's game with Slovenia in Waterford, lads like Olamide Shodipo (QPR, Jake Mulraney (Inverness), Kevin Toner (Aston Villa/Walsall) and new recruit Courtney Duffus (Everton) all in line for their U21 debuts.
Nineteen-year-old striker Shodipo is one player who Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane - the pair plan to attend the game in the RSC - will have their eyes on, as he's built on an impressive pre-season to work his way into the first team at QPR, making three appearances under boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.
Shodipo was born in Dublin but his family moved to England when he was younger and his promotion from the U19 squad makes him one to watch. Meath lad Toner made four Premier League appearances for Villa last season before they were relegated and he's now learning his trade on loan to League One side Walsall, while Mulraney (20) has made nine appearances for Richie Foran's Inverness and Duffus is in the Irish set-up for the first time.
"We have new players coming in and that's pretty exciting. We have Jake Mulraney, OlamideShodipo and Courtney Dufus so I am looking forward to seeing how they all do," says King.
"We have seen Olamide doing well in the first team, other people have watched him for me and they are excited about him but you never know, it's long term, he has to make himself a regular at his club, and that takes time, can take years, so while it's good to see him make the breakthrough we have often seen lads make the breakthrough and not fulfil the potential so it's still potential, exciting potential, but you must allow time to develop.
"You see O'Dowda going on to play for the senior team and everyone in this group should be looking to play for the senior team.
"Jake has been in the first team up at Inverness, he has featured a lot and that's a good sign, Eoghan O'Connell is looking like a late developer. It's great they have a window of opportunity to show their talents to Martin and Roy, who will be down to watch them," added King, pleased to recall Tommie Hoban from injury, who also has home-based players Sean Hoare, Dylan Connolly, Kevin O'Connor and Sean Maguire involved.
"The lads have been playing in Europe as well, which is good, we have used quite a number of LOI players through the campaign and will do so again, there are a lot of exciting young talent sin the league and it's about giving them the opportunity to blossom."