King looking to home rule
U21 boss boosted by starlets' loan spells
Ireland U21 team boss Noel King says home-based players will get a chance to impress when the Euro qualifiers resume next month.
Keen to get back into contention after successive defeats, the U21s play Italy and Slovenia in March and as he plans ahead, manager King is encouraged by the fact that Premier League players like Ian Lawlor and Josh Cullen are getting game time on loan to lower league clubs.
King has relied on English-based players as Sean Maguire (then Dundalk, now Cork City) is the only home-based player to have played in the current qualifying campaign.
But Sean Hoare and Lee Desmond (both St Pat's), Kevin O'Connor (Cork City) and Brandon Miele (Shamrock Rovers) all played in the most recent U21 friendly, November's 0-0 draw with Norway, and they are in the manager's thoughts.
"Brandon and Kevin came in and did really well against Norway and we know about the two Pat's lads as we've had them in the squad before, so there are players in with a chance," says King.
"By the time we play Italy they'll all have had a full pre-season and a couple of league games so they are certainly on the radar," added King, enthused by recent moves for his players.
"Ian Lawlor is getting games at Bury and, apart from the 6-0 loss to Coventry last week, it's gone really well for him," says King. "Josh Cullen made his debut for Bradford last week [after joining from West Ham on loan] so that's great to see the two lads getting games.
"As well, we have Darragh Lenihan enjoying a good run in the side with Blackburn so there are a lot of positives, hopefully we will be in good shape for the qualifiers next month. It's good for us as a squad to have players getting experience but the main thing is to aid their development, they won't improve as players by sitting on the bench or just playing friendly games, they'll only get better with competitive matches."