THEY have been long-time minnows but now the Faroe Islands appear to be players on the stage, and Ireland U21 boss Noel King has warned of the threat posed by the Faroes, as Ireland's hopes of qualifying for the 2015 European Championship finals hang by a thread.
A return of just one point from the last three qualifiers leaves Ireland needing a haul of six points from the next two games, at home to the Faroes in Sligo today (3.45pm) and away to Montenegro on Tuesday, as anything less will leave the Irish side well off the pace in their bid for a top-two finish, Ireland's hopes suffering a major blow with a defeat at home by Romania last month.
Ireland have already beaten the Faroes, 4-1 away from home, but the islanders have looked a lot stronger in recent times and King insists that a home win in Sligo today is not a formality.
"They are a good side, they have caused problems for the opposition in every game they have played this year and we have to be well-organised to beat them," says King. "They drew with Romania in their first game in the group, they lost three games after that but it was very close when they played Germany last month.
"Germany beat them 3-2 but the Faroes were leading 2-1 with 10 minutes to go. They are pretty good, when we think about the Faroes we think we should beat them, we have beaten them away but we have to get our heads around this game.
"We have to win the next two games to stay competitive, after these games we have Montenegro at home in March and that's a big test, but we need two wins in the next two games, we are playing catch-up in the group now," added King, back in charge of the U21 side after his spell as interim boss of the senior team against Germany and Kazakhstan.
Changes have been made to the squad for the double header.
Watford man Connor Smith is suspended for the first game today but Derrick Williams is back in the panel.