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Noel boosted by new batch of Irish teenage stars

A FRESH batch of young Irish talent on the club scene is a major boost for Ireland's international prospects, says Ireland Under-21 team boss Noel King.

Three Irish teenagers made significant debuts this week with their English clubs and King is enthused by the emergence of prospects like Sean Long (Reading), Conor Wilkinson (Bolton) and Sean Kavanagh (Fulham).


"We go to Germany next week for a qualifier and from the squad we have, lads like Tommie Hoban (Watford), Sean Long, Sean Kavanagh and Conor Wilkinson have all played for Championship clubs this season, we have more players playing now than we did a few months ago so that's a great sign," says King. "It means they are doing well at the clubs, and if they are doing that then it means they are progressing as players."

Kavanagh, 20, has made two starts in the Championship for Fulham while Bolton's 19-year-old striker Wilkinson also has two starts, in the League Cup, and another teenager, Kenneth McEvoy, is enjoying a taste of first-team football, on loan to Peterborough from Tottenham.

And King admits that relegation from the Premier League has opened the door for Irish lads at clubs like Norwich and Fulham.

"I know that Sean Kavanagh was in Fulham's plans last season, though he didn't get to play for the first team, so they rate him very highly," says King.

"Being out of the Premier League makes clubs do things differently and opportunities have come along for the likes of Sean with Fulham.


"I know that Bolton really rate Conor Wilkinson and they have started him in two games this season. He's a big lad but is quick and has a nice touch, and I have high hopes for Conor.

"And Sam Byrne has gone to Everton from Manchester United and scored a few goals for their U21s, so he's another one for the future. It's great to see so many emerge."