Saturday 21 October 2017

Irish U-21s eye Qatar test as Rio warm-up

SOCCER

Noel King's Ireland U-21s are in line to face Qatar tomorrow fortnight in Germany.

The Ireland manager will bring his squad to Aachen on May 24 to meet the Qatari side in the early stages of preparations for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

As Ireland's next and final qualifier isn't until September when they meet group leaders Germany in Halle, the FAI have been on the hunt for an interim friendly game.

Kick-off for the game at the New Tivoli Stadium will be 7.0. With Ireland out of contention to secure a play-off route into next year's U-21 European finals, King is expected to blood some emerging talent.

Tottenham Hotspur winger Kenny McEvoy should earn his second cap while Watford's Tommie Hoban is set to slot in at centre-half, with Wolves striker Liam McAlinden and Premier League newcomer Jack Grealish also in contention.

New Irish men's coach Craig Fulton has taken squad rotation to new heights.

The South African has rung extensive changes with his squad for next week's four nations tournament in Spain.

The 20 players named for the trip to Barcelona include just eight of those who took a top-four spot at the Champions Challenge event in Malaysia.

The survivors include ace goalkeeper Davy Harte and his understudy David Fitzgerald, but Fulton has also found room for young star Stephen West.

The Irish will take on Wales and Russia as well as their hosts during their stay in Catalonia.

Welcoming back many of the old guard, such as striker Timmy Cockram and long-time captain Ronan Gormley, Fulton put a positive spin on the dizzying scale of the turnover of personnel.

"This is testament to the current depth in Irish men's hockey at present," the coach commented.

SQUAD IN FACTFILE

SRI LANKA were awarded the RSA Insurance Trophy at Clontarf yesterday after the second ODI against Ireland was abandoned without a ball bowled.

The two umpires called the match off at 2.20 because areas surrounding the pitch were saturated – only for the ground to be bathed in sunshine for the remainder of the afternoon.

After losing Tuesday's first match to Sri Lanka by 79 runs, Ireland are without another full international until a three-match series with Scotland in September.

Irish Independent

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