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U-21s hopeful home win will put them on path to play-off

IRELAND U-21 team boss Noel King hopes that a batch of new faces can help the Republic's side earn the result they need next week to stay in contention for European Championship qualification.

The Irish U21 side take on Montenegro in Tallaght Stadium next Wednesday, on the afternoon of the senior international against Serbia across the city in Lansdowne Road.

While King's boys have managed wins home and away against the Faroe Islands, the other four qualifiers – Germany, Montenegro and two against Romania – have yielded just two points and no goals.


But a win at home to Montenegro would push Ireland up to second place, and as the top two in each group go through to the play-offs that would boost the Republic's hopes of a first-ever appearance at the U21 finals.

King is able to call on Derby County man Jeff Hendrick again, who has been absent from the U21 side for 18 months due to injury and his involvement with the senior squad.

But the uncapped Pierce Sweeney (Reading), Tommie Hoban (Watford), Kenneth McEvoy (Spurs) and Mikey Drennan (on loan to Portsmouth from Aston Villa) have all been called up to the U21 side for the first time, while Wolves prospect Liam McAlinden is a new feature in the Republic panel.

Born in England, McAlinden has an Irish grandfather and initially declared for Northern Ireland, winning U17 and U19 caps, but, last year, he pulled out of the North's U21 squad and stated his intention of playing for the Republic. It has taken the FAI some time to clear the paperwork with FIFA to allow McAlinden to finish his association with Northern Ireland and switch to the Republic.

McAlinden had an impressive spell on loan to Shrewsbury Town earlier this season before he was recalled to Wolves by boss Kenny Jackett, and King has high hopes for the forward.

Ireland U21 squad

v Montenegro

KEEPERS: Aaron McCarey (Wolves), Seán McDermott (Sandnes Ulf).

DEFENDERS: Seán McGinty (Northampton), Shane Duffy (Yeovil Town), Pierce Sweeney (Reading), Matt Doherty (Wolves), Tommie Hoban (Watford), John Egan (Sunderland)

MIDFIELDERS: Jeff Hendrick (Derby County), Jack Grealish (Notts Co), Callum Reilly (Birmingham City), Anthony Forde (Wolves), Seán Murray (Watford), Kenny McEvoy (Tottenham)

FORWARDS: Connor Smith (Gillingham), Liam McAlinden (Wolves), Michael Drennan (Portsmouth), Aiden O'Brien (Torquay United).