Sport Soccer

Friday 18 January 2019

Murphy eager to open Irish U-21 account

John Fallon

RHYS MURPHY has represented England and could join Rangers next week but all that matters to him for the moment is winning his first Ireland U-21 cap tonight.

After recently deciding to switch back from the Auld Enemy, the Arsenal striker is set to make his first appearance for Ireland at this level when Noel King's charges open their European Championship qualifying campaign against Hungary at the Showgrounds (7.30).

Murphy's initial international allegiance was to Ireland, whom he declared for through his Dublin-born grandfather, but after winning just one cap at U-15 level he jumped ship to play for his homeland.

Appearances for England at the U-17 and U-19 European Championships, plus the U-20 World Cup, followed for the striker, but he made a surprise decision to 'defect'.

It's not just Murphy's international career that's in transition; Arsenal will allow him depart before his contract ends next year.

Middlesbrough and SPL champions Rangers have both had Murphy in on trial, with Gers manager Ally McCoist understood to be especially keen.

Should he feature tonight, the 20-year-old will try impress more potential suitors.

He said: "Whenever you play international football you are in the shop window and you get a chance to catch people's eye. It is a great opportunity to show people what you can on a bigger stage.

"It would be great to score on my U-21 debut, but we have a lot of good players in the squad and I just have to hope that I get a chance.

"Once you start playing well, people start taking notice and things can take off very quickly.

"At my age, I want to be playing first-team football as much as I can be. Arsenal is a good club to be at but, if the right club comes in, I would definitely like to at least go out on loan."

King has replaced injured Crystal Palace striker Sean Scannell in his squad with Conor Hourihane of Plymouth Argyle.

Following tonight's game, the Irish travel to Izmir on Saturday ahead of the second instalment in the double-header against Turkey on Tuesday.

Ireland U-21s (probable) -- McLoughlin (MK Dons); Connolly (Bolton Wanderers), Duffy (Everton), Kiernan (Wigan Athletic, capt), Gunning (Dundee United); Towell (Hibernian), Clifford (Chelsea), McCarthy (Wigan Athletic); Brady (Manchester United), Collins (Shrewsbury), White (Leeds United).

Irish Independent

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