Coventry pins colours to Irish mast ahead of Brazil clash
Conor Coventry could never be accused of being a Plastic Paddy.
Ahead of his biggest match at international level, this evening's Toulon Tournament semi-final against Brazil, the West Ham United midfielder has revealed his desire to win senior Irish caps.
That the Londoner is a product of the Hammers academy and has interest form his homeland, unease has been generated around his international future.
Although Coventry is a holding midfielder like clubmate Declan Rice, the former has no doubt where his international loyalties lie.
Coventry made his West Ham first team debut in a League Cup tie alongside Rice last year, but unlike the latter he is second-generation Irish.
"My Mom, Liz Kane, was born in Cabra," says the 19-year-old.
"Her parents came from the Liberties and Ringsend. I've got a lot of Irish family living in our area of Woodford in London and there's a real Irish family feel on the street.
"It all started for me when Mark O'Toole (the London-based FAI scout) got me involved with the U-16s. I remember it well; we played Turkey at Home Farm in Whitehall.
"I really fell in love with playing for Ireland, enjoying every minute of it since. A good few of us players in France have come up through the underage ranks together."
With U-21 manager Stephen Kenny set to take over from Mick McCarthy as Ireland senior boss next year, Coventry would love to continue working with the former Dundalk manager.
"Definitely," he says about his ambitions of promotion to the full squad.
"Hopefully one day I can step up. Stephen knows our team well at this stage and it's great to have a manager who believes in me."
Kenny will have enough faith in Coventry to assign him alongside captain Jayson Molumby for today's ultimate test.
Brazil are motoring nicely towards defending their Olympic title in Tokyo next year. They have a number of sought-after players in their squad with the release clause alone for Sporting Lisbon's Wendel standing at €60 million.
Ireland's tag as rank outsiders in Aubagne doesn't faze Coventry.
"Stephen has got us playing a different way to traditional Irish teams," added Coventry.
"Our group of players are very keen to break the mould. We want to do it our own way and sometimes we've played teams off the park.
"As a kid, I had dreamt about playing against Brazil. It doesn't get any bigger than this. I still think we can reach the final.
"Our squad is one of the youngest at this tournament but we feel there's no team that we can't beat."
- Ireland U-21 v Brazil U-22, Live, FreeSports, 4.25pm