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Saturday 3 December 2016

Saint Jamie makes mark for U21s

St Pats’ ace Jamie McGrath (r). Pic: Sportsfile
St Pats’ ace Jamie McGrath (r). Pic: Sportsfile

Noel King believes that Ireland's home-based players are more than holding their own at an U21 training camp in Spain this week.

With 10 months to go until the next competitive game at U21 level when the qualifiers for the 2019 Euro finals begin, a tournament that has the added attraction of qualification for the Olympic games, manager King has used that down time to take a new-look U21 panel to Spain.

The squad played the Czech Republic over the weekend and face a Slovakian side today, but as these are training games with no caps awarded and rolling substitutions, King is keen to focus on how the players are progressing.

LOI lads Sean Heaney (Shamrock Rovers), Ronan Curtis (Derry City), Jamie McGrath (St Pats) and Ciaran O'Connor (Dundalk) are all in the U21 set-up for the first time and King is impressed.

"We have a lot of new faces in the squad and they have all done well," says King.

"Ronan Curtis came in after a good season at Derry and he looks comfortable, Sean Heaney has been in the Rovers side and Jamie McGrath has stepped up, he's comfortable on the ball.

"It's not that easy for those lads as they're at the end of a long season

"Ryan Sweeney (Stoke) and Danny Kane (Huddersfield) came in, lads who were already there at U21 level, like Jack Byrne and Josh Cullen, came with us as well and they are a good influence. We have also got to work with Manchester United keeper Kieran O'Hara and he is a prospect, we've had a good week."

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