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Experience in Premier a ‘boost’ to Irish U19s

PAUL DOOLIN hopes that a healthy dose of Premier League experience for some of the stars in the Ireland U19 squad can |help the Irish boys complete their next task and qualify for the European Championship finals.

The Ireland U19s assemble in Dublin next Sunday – just like their compatriots in the Poland-bound sen-ior squad – to prepare for a three-game tournament in the elite round of qualifiers for the Euro finals.

Ireland play Ukraine, Israel and host nation Portugal, with the winners of that four-team group advancing to the U19 Euro finals in Estonia in July, Ireland of course aware that they reached the last four of the finals in Romania last year.

From the U19 panel named by Doolin yesterday two players – Samir Carruthers (Aston Villa) and Anthony Forde (Wolves) – managed to earn first-team experience last term.

Gifted midfielder Carruthers made his Premier League debut for Villa against Liverpool and played three league games for Alex McLeish’s side, while Limerick lad Forde played seven times for Wolves.

Other squad members, like Kilkenny-born forward Mikey Drennan and Waterford lad Derrick Williams, made the bench for Villa’s first team without getting a game, while highly-rated winger Sean Murray scored seven goals in 18 Championship appearances for Watford.

“It was great for Samir and Anthony to get those games for Wolves, it’s a big boost to their confidence and it’s good for the other players to see,” said Doolin after including the pair in his |18-man squad for the three Euro games, as both players were also part of the U19 side which played in the U19 finals last year.

“Samir is a confident lad, you can see that and it’s great for him to be in the Villa first team at such a young age. Once they keep up their progress and they don’t get carried away, it is important they don’t lose sight of how they got here.

“I am hopeful that they can get even more games next season but hopefully they can do well for us in these games in Portugal.

“It was a good year for some of our young players in terms of how they did at their clubs, Villa had a few Irish lads in the first team squad and on the bench. We’ve seen Matt Doherty and Jeff Hendrick go from being in last year’s U19 squad to being regulars for their clubs in the season just gone, Sean Murray at Watford as well, it’s great to see.

“And I’d like to think that we - us here in the FAI - have helped them in their progress as the games they’ve played at underage international level,” added Doolin.

It’s a big ask for Ireland to get through the last stage of qualification, especially as the first game, on Monday week, is against the hosts Portugal. “You have to try and win your first game in the group and that’s not an easy thing to do,” said the Ireland boss.

Doolin’s did have to deal with some injury problems in assembling his squad, as Rangers keeper Adam Smith and Celtic striker Paul George miss out.