AFTER a premature end to their European Championship qualifying campaign, Ireland U21 team boss Noel King is set to look to the future against Italy tonight.
King's side play the final match of their group in Casarano (5.30pm Irish time), in a game which has no real meaning.
The classy Italians are guaranteed to finish top of the group and will qualify for the playoff stage, while Ireland have no chance of the second-place finish they'd need to reach the playoffs, as Thursday's 2-1 defeat in Hungary ended their hopes.
King has made a number of changes to his squad, some of them enforced due to suspension, as well as one call-up to the senior squad (Robbie Brady), with a batch of players set to make their U21 debuts in Italy tonight.
Promising youngsters like Matt Doherty (Wolves), Samir Carruthers and Derrick Williams (both Aston Villa) graduating from the U19 side.
"It's the first time with us for a lot of players like Anthony Forde, Connor Smith and Matt Doherty, and we want to get a good blend which will do a job for us," said King.
"The likes of Samir Carruthers, Anthony Forde and Sean Murray are all playing regularly at a very high level, so I'm looking forward to seeing them play," says King, who is hoping to avoid a third consecutive competitive defeat.
"To see how they perform against Italy will be great for them, great for me and we'll have an idea about how they'll perform in the future.
"Italy have topped the group and have players in their squad that we'll be hearing about for the next 15 years.
"We know that some of them are potential world stars so we have to give them the height of respect but be clever and try get something out of it."
King will be without Manchester United prospect Brady, now Ireland's all-time top scorer at U21 level after netting his seventh goal for the side in the defeat to Hungary, as he's been elevated to the senior squad.
"Robbie has the chance to go on and play for Ireland for many years and I hope he does," King explained.
"Robbie has deserved his call-up. He's been sensational for us -- as the people of Sligo will testify after his previous performances in the campaign.
"He sets the place alive and some of his play has been outrageous."
Shane Duffy, Greg Cunningham, Rhys Murphy and Jeff Hendrick are all suspended for the Italy game so drop out of the squad. Connor Smith (Watford) comes in.