Hendrick taking Ireland career one stage at time
PROMISING Derby County youngster Jeff Hendrick says he must nail down a place in the U-21s before contemplating a bigger international stage.
The 19-year-old's injury-enforced absence from Noel King's squad for last month's European Championship qualification win over Liechtenstein means he may start on the bench tonight in the rematch against the group minnows at the Showgrounds in Sligo (7.30).
However, the midfielder's ascent this term into the Derby County team, playing the last 14 matches on the spin, is a sure sign the Dubliner has a big future in the Irish jersey.
Out of contract at Pride Park next summer, Aston Villa and Wolves are just two of several Premier League clubs waiting to pounce, should the ongoing negotiations break down.
With midfield considered to be lacking depth for the European Championship finals-bound senior team, it all adds up to an opportunity for Hendrick to press his claims to graduate in the next eight months before the showpiece kicks off in Poland and Ukraine.
The product of the St Kevin's Boys nursery admits to watching Giovanni Trapattoni's team with envy, though he isn't indulging the Euro dream for now at least.
"The senior squad is the next step for us, but the only thing on my mind is getting a regular spot for the U-21 team," said Hendrick.
"I've had a good season at Derby so far and I'm sure the Ireland senior management are listening out for younger players coming through that are doing well. Two players (James McCarthy and Conor Clifford) have got senior call-ups this season and that's a confidence booster for all of us."
King reckons his youthful bunch, chasing a third win from four qualifiers, can make a case for promotion to the full ranks.
"I speak to the senior manager on a regular basis and brief him on how the lads are faring," he said. With no withdrawals from his original 18-man squad, King's team is unlikely to show any changes from the 4-1 win in Liechtenstein.
IRELAND (probable) -- I McLoughlin (MK Dons); M Connolly (Bolton), S Duffy (Scunthorpe), R Kiernan (Wigan), G Cunningham (Manchester City); R Towell (Hibernian), C Clifford (Yeovil Town), A Barton (Preston NE); R Brady (Hull City), J Collins (Shrewsbury Town), A White (Leeds United).