Noel King out to get Republic's Euro hopes back on track
Published 27/03/2016 | 16:01
Noel King has challenged his Republic of Ireland Under-21s players to drag themselves back into the race for European Championship qualification in Slovenia.
Ireland head for Koper on Monday with their hopes of making it to the finals in Poland hanging by a thread after Thursday evening's 4-1 drubbing by Group 2 leaders Italy in Waterford.
However, King believes they still have a chance of snatching one of the four best runners-up berths and a crack at the play-offs.
He said: "We're still in with a chance of finishing second. Slovenia are a very good side and have had some good results themselves and it's a difficult test, but we're going into the game looking to get three points out of it.
"This group was never going to be easy with the quality of teams in it. Slovenia are a very talented side without having the international reputation of a side like Italy, but they do cause teams problems.
"It's a game that both sides will feel that they have a chance of winning."
The Republic remain in fourth place in the group, seven points adrift of the leaders and four shy of Serbia in second, while the Slovenians are one place and three points better off.
They had hoped to be travelling to Koper having significantly reduced that gap, but, despite taking an early lead when Italy defender Rolando Mandragora turned Jack Byrne's free-kick into his own net, strikes from Marco Benassi, Valerio Rosseti and Alessio Romagnoli and Darragh Lenihan's own goal ensured victory for the visitors.
Chesterfield midfielder Connor Dimaio and Bray Wanderers winger Dylan Connolly have been drafted into the squad, but Brighton defender Glen Rea is suspended and Shamrock Rovers midfielder Brandon Miele was unable to travel.