Friday 19 January 2018

Reilly determined to impress boyhood idol Keane

John Fallon

IT'S ONLY natural that the afterglow from the senior management changeover has permeated to the Ireland U-21 rookies preparing for today's UEFA Championship qualifier against the Faroe Islands at the Showgrounds (3.45).

With a full 10-month window before the competitive action begins, allied to the stated aim of Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane to drill deep in the well for new material, the west has been awake over the last two days.

O'Neill gave U-21 boss Noel King a guarantee during their meeting on Monday that his hopefuls will be afforded a tunnel to the senior ranks during this period of transition.

Keane went further on Wednesday by insisting he's planning to immerse himself into the workings of the U-19 and U-21 squads.

Their predecessor Giovanni Trapattoni was stubbornly ambivalent towards the underage squads within the FAI umbrella, failing to attend one international beyond the senior remit during his five-and-a-half year tenure.

It was only after Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick began to have a major impact at club level for Hull City and Derby County respectively, rather than their consistent displays on international duty, that promotions to the full squad were granted.

Ahead of today's must-win game against the Faroes, Ireland midfielder Callum Reilly has spoken of the excitement within their camp following the new appointments at the top of the tree.

Keane, as one of his boyhood idols, is someone the tyro is especially interested in catching the eye of in the months ahead. Indeed, the 20-year-old's style – built on tenacious tackling and bombing from box-to-box – has earned him comparisons to the former Ireland skipper.

That he's played every minute of Birmingham's last four games makes him deserving of a peek from the new gurus when they generate a scouting plan for the next campaign.

"Roy was a midfielder like me, so I'd love to work under him at some stage," said the Birmingham-born powerhouse, who declared for Ireland through his grandparents last year.

"The more games I get for Birmingham and Ireland's U-21s, the better chance of the new senior management team coming to watch me play. I've had to be patient this season at my club to get regular games, but now I want to stay there. Personally, things are going well, but the team are still trying to find consistency."

After dropping five points in two games against Romania last month, Ireland need to win today and again in Montenegro next Tuesday.

"We're past the midway point of the campaign and the players know victories are required to push for second spot in the group and play-off," said King.

"I'm confident they'll bounce back from last month's poor results."

Full-back Michael Harriman and holding midfielder Matt Doherty are expected to earn recalls, having missed the 1-0 defeat to Romania last time out.

IRELAND (probable) – A McCarey (Wolves); M Harriman (Gillingham), S Duffy (Yeovil Town), D Williams (Bristol City), S McGinty (Sheffield Utd); C Reilly (Birmingham City), C Dunne (Wycombe); S Murray (Watford), S Carruthers (MK Dons), J Grealish (Notts County); C Smith (Watford).

Irish Independent

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