| 13.8°C Dublin

Noel King urges U-21s to make case to O'Neill

NOEL KING hopes that the quality will speak for itself as he continues to groom the next Republic of Ireland stars that Martin O'Neill doesn't believe exist.

Despite O'Neill's concerns about talented youngsters breaking through, the U-21 squad is packed with fledglings of enormous potential for next week's clash with Montenegro.

O'Neill won't make it to Tallaght Stadium for the European qualifier as it will be played just hours before the senior team host Serbia, but he will get a full report from it.

King hopes that report is full of recommendations for players to make the step up.

"You don't know with young players, it's very early to be saying that they are going to be good or bad – it takes time," said King. "We've sent through an awful lot of players to the first team in the last three years, something like seven or eight who have played for the senior team, which is a huge amount."

One player who does have to impress O'Neill is Derby County midfielder Jeff Hendrick as he returns to the U-21s for their must-win game, having been overlooked for the Serbia clash.

King believes that the four-times-capped senior international can look at how Everton ace James McCarthy stepped back before establishing himself.

"I asked if he (Hendrick) wasn't going to be there (with the seniors), would he come in? And he was delighted to come in," said King. "It worked in James' favour (stepping back to the U-21s)."

King's team are joint-second in Group 6, alongside Montenegro, and must collect the three points to stay in the hunt for a play-off spot to reach the finals in Czech Republic.

UEFA U-21 C'SHIP SELECTION

Republic of Ireland SQUAD (v Montenegro) – A McCarey (Wolves), S McDermott (Sandnes Ulf), S McGinty (Sheffield United – on-loan to Northampton), S Duffy (Everton – on-loan to Yeovil Town), P Sweeney (Reading), M Doherty (Wolves), T Hoban (Watford), J Hendrick (Derby County), J Grealish (Aston Villa – on-loan to Notts County), C Reilly (Birmingham City), A Forde (Wolves), S Murray (Watford), C Smith (Watford – on-loan to Gillingham), L McAlinden (Wolves), J Egan (Sunderland), K McEvoy (Tottenham), M Drennan (Aston Villa – on-loan to Portsmouth), A O'Brien (Millwall – on-loan to Torquay United)

Irish Independent