U21’s Preview: Rep of Ireland v Liechtenstein

With Ireland’s qualification for Euro 2012 all but rubber stamped, there is a growing buzz among fans and commentators surrounding the potential additions to Trapattoni’s squad before the tournament.

Indeed there were rumours circulating on Sunday evening that Under 21 boss Noel King had been asked for recommendations by Ireland assistant Marco Tardelli, so it seems there may be space for one or two new faces in prospective training camps.

“I speak to the senior manager on a regular basis and brief him on how the lads are faring,” said King. “It will be great for everyone if the senior team qualify and a further incentive for the lads in my squad to keep doing well at this level and for their clubs.”

Of the current under 21 squad only left back Greg Cunningham, centre back Shane Duffy and midfielder Conor Clifford have been involved with Trapattoni’s senior squad, but there is an abundance of talent waiting to be tapped into.

Noel King’s charges currently lie third in their Group 7 qualifying round for the Uefa Under 21 Championships with 6 points from 3 games played. Above them are Italy and Turkey, the latter having already defeated Ireland by one goal to nil in the impressive Manisa 19 Mayis stadium in Turkey.

Tonight, King’s men play Liechtenstein in the Sligo Showgrounds, which appears to have become the team’s home on the west coast and, having trounced the Alpine team 4-1 in Eschen, the former Finn Harps manager chose to go with a largely unchanged squad, with a few additions from the League of Ireland such as forwards Karl Sheppard and Aaron Greene.

The spine of King’s team have been playing regular competitive football, albeit at a lower level. Manchester United starlet Robbie Brady is on loan at Hull City, Greg Cunningham is on loan Nottingham Forest and Chelsea youngster Conor Clifford recently joined Yeovil Town. Everton centre half Shane Duffy has also been in terrific form for Scunthorpe United this season receiving plaudits from his manager. Young Derby midfielder Jeff Hendrick is another who been outstanding for his team this season.

In a stark contrast to Trapattoni’s 4-4-2, King will implement a 4-3-3 formation, which sees two tricky wingers and a strong target man in attack. Robbie Brady has been scoring for fun for the under 21s, terrorizing defences with his unpredictable turn of pace, while striker James Collins bagged a hat trick in the last game.

With no untimely withdrawals, King is unlikely to make any changes to his team for the game and is confident of improving as the group progresses

“Our own campaign at under-21 has begun in positive fashion and another win tonight would be crucial heading into next year when we host the top seeds Italy and Turkey at home.”, said King

“We are challenging each other to achieve something that has not been done previously at under-21 level, which is to qualify. There is still a long way to go, but we have made a good start.”

The game kicks off at 19:30 at the Sligo Showgrounds. Tickets are €5 for adults and €2 for children and patrons are advised to be early due to ticket limitations.

Probable Team: McLoughlin (MK Dons); Connolly (Bolton Wanderers), Duffy (Scunthorpe), Kiernan (Wigan Athletic), Cunningham (Nottingham Forest); Towell (Hibernian), Clifford (Yeovil Town), Barton (Preston North End); Brady (Hull City), Collins (Shrewsbury Town), White (Leeds United)


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