SUNDERLAND prospect John Egan says Ireland's current crop of U21 players are desperate to emulate the achievements of the U19 squad and reach the European Championship finals.
Cork lad Egan has a taste for the Euro finals as he was captain of the U19 side which reached the semi-finals of last year's tournament in Romania, Ireland going down 5-0 to eventual winners Spain.
Egan (pictured) has now progressed to the U21 panel and hopes to feature later today as Noel King's men play Italy in Sligo, Ireland knowing they need a win against the group leaders if they are to stand a chance of qualifying for the finals, which will be held in Israel next year.
"The manager has made us aware of the fact that Ireland have never qualified for the finals at U21 level so of course we're keen to change that," said Egan, who made the bench for a number of the Black Cats' Premier League games last term.
"Some of us in this squad were in Romania last summer with the U19s, it was a brilliant feeling just to qualify for the finals and then come out of the group, so we'd love to have a chance of doing the same with the U21s.
"We'll go into the game tonight with a positive attitude, we're not looking too far ahead, we'll get this game out of the way and see how we stand in the group."
With three wins from the first four games, Ireland have had their best start to a qualifying campaign in some time, but boss King knows a positive result tonight is crucial if the side are to qualify.
"If we win here and beat Turkey in the next game, we'd be in a very good position to make the finals," said King, who plans to field the same XI which lost to Denmark last week.
U21 QUALIFIERS, GROUP 7
Pl GD Pts
Italy 5 + 14 15
Turkey 7 +5 12
IRELAND 4 +5 9
Hungary 5 -6 3
Liechtenstein 5 -18 0