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Hungarians provide opposition in build up to Greece

THE CHANCE to see the stars of the future on home soil beckons this week when the Republic of Ireland under 17 side meet their Hungarian counterparts in two important friendly internationals.

Tolka Park tomorrow night (7.30pm) and the Carlisle Grounds in Bray on Thursday evening (7.30pm) are the two venues as Sean McCaffrey's squad get some vital action in preparation for the more important UEFA Championship qualifying games which are just around the corner.

Those European Championship games take place next month in Greece in what is the second phase of qualifying with the Republic of Ireland looking to reach the European Finals in Liechtenstein.

Apart from the mini group hosts Greece, Ireland will also face Austria and Finland with the games scheduled for March 19 to 24 with only the winners of the four nation mini-group progressing to those Finals in May.

That is why this week's double header against Hungary is so important, a fact fully recognised by Republic of Ireland manager Sean McCaffrey.

"It's important that we maximise the value from these two games against Hungary as they're our last preparatory matches before the qualifiers in six weeks time," said McCaffrey.

"There is a determination within this group of players to succeed in reaching the European Championship finals this summer and that sort of resilience was vital in the first phase when we won our first two games through late goals.

"I stated at the start of the season that all players would be considered throughout this campaign and I've brought in some new lads to have a look at. The opportunity is there for them to prove that they're worthy of a place in the panel for the next matches."

Of course, Irish fans this week will get the opportunity to view at first hand the performances of former Mullingar Athletic player and now Watford player Connor Smith, the star of Sky Television's Football's Next Star, as he is one of the 22 players named in McCaffrey's squad for the Hungarian games

Republic of Ireland U-17: Sean McDermott (Arsenal), Jack Bonham (Watford), Alan Smith (Crumlin United), Michael Barker (Belvedere), Neil Yadolahi (Burnley), Richard Bryan (Aston Villa), Derrrick Williams (Aston Villa), Sean McGinty (Manchester United), Kevin Knight (Leicester City), Ben Glasgow (Arsenal), Frankie Sutherland (QPR), Shane Byrne (Leicester City), Anton Rogers (Chelsea), Carl McHugh (Reading), Callum Webb (Arsenal), Graham Burke (Tottenham Hotspur), George Smith (Southend United), Ryan Brobbel (Middlesbrough), Daniel Purdy (West Ham United), David Murphy (Reading), Connor Smith (Watford), Aiden O'Brien (Millwall).