Republic of Ireland Under-21 team manager Noel King is focusing on the future when his side hosts the Netherlands at Tallaght Stadium on lunchtime today.
King has a host of new caps in his squad as he sets his sights on the 2013-15 UEFA Championships qualifying campaign, which ends with the finals tournament in the Czech Republic.
Ireland has never qualified for the UEFA U-21 Championships finals but had their best campaign in ten years in their last series – their first under King – when they finished third in their group behind Italy and Turkey.
The Irish have been drawn alongside Germany, Romania, Montenegro and the Faroe Islands in the UEFA qualifiers and the meeting with the touch is a first opportunity to see how the new crop shapes up.
Many of these players were key members of the Ireland side that reached the semi-finals of the UEFA U19 Championships two years ago so their pedigree is good.
Also the likes of goalkeeper Aaron McCarey, defenders Matt Doherty and Derrick Williams and midfielder Sean Murray, Samir Carruthers and Anthony Forde all starred in a memorable 4-2 win over Italy in Casarano in the U21 side’s last game in September.
“There’s an exciting group of players there and we’ll see how they gel and how they’ve developed over the past year or two,” said King.
King has appointed Everton’s Shane Duffy as captain for the campaign ahead but is aware that there will always be an opportunity for his squad members to move up to senior level – as has been the case with Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick who are still eligible for this age-group.
“We’re delighted for the likes of Robbie and Jeff to move up to senior level and I’m sure there are others in the squad capable of doing the same and they have the ambitions to do that,” said the manager.
“We will take this game as an opportunity to look at the players and get to know some of them better. We’ll want to win it and the Dutch will be an excellent challenge for us but we’ll know more about where we are after this game.”