Browne ready for qualifiers after play-off run at Preston
Though the League of Ireland has struggled to export ready-made Premier League players of late, youngsters like Ireland U-19 midfielder Alan Browne have plotted a different route to the big stage.
Preston North End manager Simon Grayson was sufficiently impressed with the midfielder late last year to shell out a fee to Cork City for the rookie.
It was designed with next season in mind, but the 19-year-old exceeded expectations by featuring nine times in their surge to the League One play-offs.
Now he's on the international beat for this week's UEFA U-19 elite qualifiers as one of only two likely starters in Paul Doolin's side with cross-channel, first-team experience behind them.
Browne admits an Irish victory tonight against Iceland at Tallaght Stadium (7.00) is essential ahead of stiffer tests against Turkey on Friday and title holders Serbia next Monday. Only the top team from the group advances to the finals in Hungary this July.
"Paul will have us well set up to play against all the three teams," explained the Cork native.
"Iceland knocked out France in the last qualification group and we'll be wary of them.
"I feel in good shape after the move to Preston going better than expected. The play-offs with Preston meant I missed the last couple of friendlies against Mexico, but I've been with the group for the last few days and we're confident of qualifying.
Doolin, who guided an U-19 squad featuring Jeff Hendrick to the 2011 finals, has a fully fit squad to choose from.
"It's all very well saying we're going to qualify, but then to get beaten in the first game and be knocked out...," said the manager.
"All we're concerned about is getting a good start. Tallaght Stadium's big pitch will suit us and the players have prepared well for this one."
Ireland (probable) – Grimes (Leeds Utd), Baba (Fulham), Long (Reading), McFadden (Norwich City), Mosley (Birmingham City), Browne (Preston NE), Mulroney (St Patrick's Athletic), Connolly (Shelbourne), O'Hanlon (Liverpool), Byrne (Manchester United), O'Sullivan (Aberdeen).
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