Saturday 29 April 2017

Manning looks to make his mark for Under-21s

“This is the first time I’ve been involved with the Under-21s after two years in England,” said Manning. Photo: Sportsfile
“This is the first time I’ve been involved with the Under-21s after two years in England,” said Manning. Photo: Sportsfile

John Fallon

Now converted to a holding midfielder, Ryan Manning chooses his words like his tackles and is measured when it comes to both. His Queens Park Rangers boss Ian Holloway isn't known for his hesitation either but the surge into the senior Ireland squad he predicts for his Galway gem is tempered by some pragmatism.

"This is the first time I've been involved with the Under-21s after two years in England," said Manning ahead of today's opening UEFA qualifier against Kosovo at Tallaght Stadium (1.0).

"Every boy growing up in Ireland wants to play for the senior team and that's ultimately my aim. However, the best way of giving myself the best chance of achieving that is by impressing Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane on occasions like this U-21 game."

Continuing to blaze a trail in the Championship will also help plant a seed in O'Neill's mind when he looks to experiment over the next nine weeks with three of four upcoming games being friendlies.

The 20-year-old's stellar debut against Wolves on New Year's Eve was the first of 12 games he's figured in, enough for Holloway to grant an improved contract and a centralised status in his overhauled squad.

No longer is Manning the raw, skinny striker Harry Redknapp paid €60,000 to Galway for, rather his forte now revolves around mixing strength with panache in the engine-room.

"I much prefer it there," he admitted. "As a striker, you can drift out of the game whereas, in the middle, I have to be switched on and get plenty of the action.

"I've had to watch my tackles for a few games there lately because I was a booking away from a two-match suspension but I like getting stuck in. That's the way my manager wants me to play."

Meanwhile, Ireland's U-19s can take another seismic step towards qualifying for the European finals in July when they take on Sweden in Beveren (1pm, Irish time). Tom Mohan's side opened the elite stage group on Thursday's with a 2-0 win over Italy and need to complete the group, which also includes hosts Belgium, on top to reach the Georgia-hosted finals.

IRELAND U-21 (probable): O'Hara (Manchester Utd); Kane (Huddersfield), Sweeney (Bristol Rovers), O'Grady (Sheffield Wed), Donnellan (Dagenham); Dimaio (Chesterfield), Cullen (Bradford), Hale (Aston Villa), Charsley (Everton); Manning (QPR); Quigley (Gillingham).

Irish Independent

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