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Returning Leon seeks Euros spot

LEON BEST has targeted a return to the Newcastle United side before the end of the season as he retains a hope of making it into the Ireland squad for the Euro 2012 finals.

Best has been sidelined with a knee injury for five weeks and the striker had initially been ruled out for the rest of the season. But he has now revealed that he plans to resume training within a week and is eager to prove his fitness in the Magpies' side so he can attempt to win a place in Ireland's squad for the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine.

"I'm going to be back running hopefully in the next week, 10 days," he said.

"I'm doing leg-strengthening exercises now and it feels good, so I've got confidence I'll be back before the end of the season to play games. I want to be part of what we're doing here.

"I've been going to every game and kicking the chair in front of me, but I'm only really happy when I'm on the pitch.

"To get fit with the possibility of being in the Euros, that's in the back of my mind, now I need to get fit and play a couple of Newcastle games to show that I'm fit enough to go. I'm confident I can get some games under my belt before the summer."

Byrne aids U17s cause

MANCHESTER UNITED prospect Sam Byrne has boosted Ireland's hopes of qualifying for the U17 European Championship finals by shaking off an injury in time to be fit for a vital game against Serbia tonight.

John Morling's U17s side take on the Serbians (5pm) in the first of a three-game qualifying tournament in Netherlands, with the winners of the group, which also includes Albania and hosts Netherlands, automatically qualifying for the U17 finals, which will be held in Slovenia in May.

Byrne, who moved to United from St Joseph's Boys last summer, was a concern due to an ankle injury, but boss Morling has a full squad to pick from ahead of the meeting with Serbia in Schijndel.

After tonight's game, Ireland then play Netherlands on Saturday and finish off against Albania on Tuesday.