Norway tie a challenge for next batch of U21 prospects says King
NOEL King has challenged the next generation of young Irish hopefuls to show what they can do before the next European Championship qualifying campaign starts next year.
There is plenty of competitive action at U21 level this week as 14 countries battle it out in playoffs hoping to qualify for the U21 Euro finals next year.
But Ireland, who finished fourth in their five-team group, 12 points behind group winners Germany, have to make do with a series of friendly games as they failed to qualify, the first of those tests away to Norway tonight (6pm).
With his elevation to the senior squad this week, former Cork City man Brian Lenihan has joined recent U21 caps like Shane Duffy, Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick in moving up the ladder, with Ian Lawlor and Aaron McCarey also having spent time in the senior squad.
Recent progress at club level by players like Tommie Hoban (Watford), Sean Long (Reading), Sean Kavanagh (Fulham), Alan Browne (Preston), as well as positive reports about their form in Scotland regarding Danny Rogers (Dumbarton) and Philip Roberts (Dundee), is an encouragement.
So for King, this game in Norway and next month's friendly games against Russia and the USA
"We can try out a few things ahead of the next qualifiers but it's about learning who can bring what to the table, what these players have in their game," says King.
"The more matches you get together the better you get, I have never had this level of preparation at U21 level before."
A batch of players could make their U21 debut in Norway as midfielders Alan Browne (Preston), Dylan Connolly (Shelbourne) and Sean Kavanagh come into the game with some first-team experience behind them.
"I haven't worked with Alan Browne before but I have seen him in the U19s and I watched him play for Preston last week and he has been very impressive, he has a lot of games under his belt at club level," says King.
"And we have Sean Kavanagh in as he's had a good run in the Fulham team, and Dylan Connolly has been good for Shels, I saw him last weekend.
"Tommie Hoban is doing really well for a Watford side who are making a real challenge for the Premier League.
"Sean Long has been in the first team at Reading and he's progressing really nicely, he was very good for us in our last game away to Germany. We have good strength in depth in defence now and I think we will be ok for the next campaign in terms of qualifiers."
King is also relishing the prospect of working with Scottish-based forward Philip Roberts.
Still only 20, the English-born player has already been around the block.
Highly-rated in the Arsenal academy he was unable to make progress there and headed to Scotland.
He was let go by Falkirk earlier this year in the aftermath of an incident that saw him handed down a six-match suspension and he later joined Dundee.
"This season he has made three SPl appearances for the side.
"It's amazing that Philip Roberts is still at this age group as he has been around the scene for a long time but he's still only 20 and this is a good time to have a look at him," added King.
Manchester City man Ian Lawlor is the number one goal keeper at this lever but King is eager to hake a look at Danny Rogers. On loan from Aberdeen, he was voted as Dumbarton's player of the month last month.