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Saturday 14 December 2019

Teen star Idah believes Irish U21s can cope with high expectations

Adam Idah, 18, is with the Canaries
Adam Idah, 18, is with the Canaries

A pleasant headache for Stephen Kenny and his Ireland U21 side is trying to cope with the hype that threatens to engulf this young side.

A bright start to the qualifying campaign has put the Republic of Ireland's U21s on top of their group table and in with a chance of qualification for the European Championship finals for the first time at that level.

Heading into a four-month break before the next bout of qualifiers, Ireland are three points clear of Italy, though a supremely gifted Italian side have two games in hand and Italy host Ireland in the last group game, next October, by which time Kenny will have vacated that role to take over the senior international side.

Aaron Connolly, Troy Parrott and Lee O'Connor have already moved up that international ladder, winning senior caps in the last month having emerged from an U21 squad which is the most talked-about Ireland panel ever at this level.

Expectation brings demands but one of the group's stand-out players, Norwich's Adam Idah, says they can cope.

"I don't think there is pressure on us from outside," the striker said.

"The players in this squad, we want to be one of the best teams in Europe and that's what we are trying to do. We take it as it comes and don't get too worried about things we can't control," says Adam Idah, the Cork-born striker who put on a stunning performance in Tuesday's win over Sweden.

"You hear good things being said about you and that's great to hear but as a player you need to try and put that to one side and play your game.

"We will enjoy this now, it is nice to be talked about, but we know we have work to do as well. I was delighted to see the three lads go up to the senior squad, they all deserve it, and it shows there is a pathway for us younger players to come in and play for the seniors.

"Senior level is different to the U21s. If I did get the call-up I'd like to think I could score goals but I have to wait and see if that chance comes."

The last international break was a good one for Kenny's side, back-to-back wins, but a batch of his players will now be denied first-team football for a long spell as a result of their status at club level, these boys major players when it comes to the green jersey but not even bit-part roles with their clubs.

Of the Irish starting XI for Tuesday's 4-1 win at home to Sweden, six are on the books of Premier League clubs but the four who are currently with those clubs - Gavin Bazunu (Manchester City), Conor Coventry (West Ham), Troy Parrott (Spurs) and Idah (Norwich) - and the pair out on loan (Southampton's Thomas O'Connor at Gillingham and Brighton man Jayson Molumby with Millwall) will not be involved this weekend.

Idah made a lot of people sit up and take notice with his display against the Swedes, hard to believe he's still only 18, but apart from one outing in the League Cup, he's not close to the first team at Norwich.

"I'm not sure what will happen next with the club, it's up to the manager. If he wants me to go out on loan, I will. Or I'll stay, if that's what he wants," says Idah. "I did get a game in the Carabao Cup, unfortunately we lost to Crawley but it was good to get my debut.

"The manager is very encouraging and he brings a lot of young players into the squad, he's very good with us and I take on board everything he says so I will wait for my chance."

With one point from the last seven games, Norwich badly need a change of fortune, though it's no comfort for Canaries fans to see some of their players do well at international level - Teemu Pukki's goals helped Finland qualify for the Euros for the first time, but he hasn't scored for Norwich in two months.

It would take a leap of faith from Norwich boss Daniel Farke to pitch Idah into Premier League battle, but confidence is not something the 18-year-old lacks.

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