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Thursday 17 April 2014

King's U-21s to warm up for Euro qualifiers with testing Dutch clash

IRELAND'S U-21s will warm up for next year's European Championship qualifying campaign by hosting the Netherlands in a friendly on February 6.

Manager Noel King is to use the preparatory run-out to integrate new talent into a squad that he hopes can progress all the way to the 2015 UEFA finals in the Czech Republic. The draw for those qualifiers will also take place in February.

King's last campaign saw Ireland finish third in the table; they finished on a high in September with a 4-1 victory away to group winners Italy. Seven of the Irish starting team in Casarano that night, including Sunderland's John Egan, are eligible again for the next qualifying series.

Another player still underage is Robbie Brady, though he's likely to remain in the senior set-up.

Darron Gibson, Darren O'Dea and Stephen Ward all featured for Ireland in the last U-21 game between the nations in 2007, when a penalty by former Real Madrid and Everton winger Royston Drenthe clinched a 1-0 win for the Dutch in Venlo.

As the fixture is scheduled for the same day as Ireland's senior international against Poland, the match will have an afternoon kick-off. Sligo's Showgrounds has hosted most U-21 games in recent years, though there's a possibility the game could be played in Dublin.

The Dutch will use the game to intensify their build-up to next year's finals in Israel, where they'll be chasing their third title in six attempts.

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