Republic of Ireland Under-21 defender Eiran Cashin has said that the opportunity to make history against Israel in their European Championship play-off double-header brings feelings of excitement rather than pressure.

The Derby County player will be hoping to be part of the first Irish men's side at this age group to qualify for a major tournament, with the first leg set to take place at Tallaght Stadium on Friday before a trip to Tel Aviv next Tuesday.

Jim Crawford's side had a shot at automatic qualification in their final group game back in June, but a 4-1 loss to Italy in Ascoli meant that the play-off route provided a shot at redemption, and Cashin can’t wait for the game to come around.

"There’s no reason for us not to be confident," he said.

"I know it’s a lot of pressure, two big games, but there's a chance of making history, that’s the way we see it.

"It’s more excitement than anything that we can actually go and qualify and make history. I don’t think there is any reason to feel any doubt.

"We’re just going to give it us our best shot and hopefully we’ll qualify."

Cashin can justifiably feel that he deserves a bit of luck in these play-offs.

Qualifying through his Mayo grandmother, now residing in Leitrim, his Ireland U21 debut was delayed by paperwork issues.

His opportunities with Derby were also limited last year owing to a ruling about the number of players of 'professional standing' in their squad.

Throw into the mix the fact that the club was forced into administration for a period and dropped into League One and it has been a testing spell for the youngster, but he is hoping that such harsh lessons prepare him for future difficult battles on the pitch.

"It was a tough time. I got a call-up [with Ireland], came in training and there were a few paperwork issues that we were struggling to get sorted.

Eiran Cahin (R) with Irish team-mate Will Smallbone after the latter's goal in qualifying against Montenegro

"I don’t know the details but there was some hold-up.

"It was tough, the excitement of getting called up for your country is great but being told you can’t play is tough to take.

"There’s up and downs, any footballer has ups and downs and I’m just glad it’s all sorted and I can kick on and help the team and the squad qualify."

Cashin has certainly been making his mark in England this year and has been a regular at the back for Liam Rosenior's Rams.

"He’s showed a lot of faith in young lads and the system that we played. He’s a great coach and a good guy as well and I’ve enjoyed playing for him," Cashin said of his new boss.

Rosenior replaced Wayne Rooney who stepped away from the club in June, and Cashin said it was still "surreal" to think that he got to play for – and sometimes share a training ground with – one of football’s most famous names.

"He was a nice guy, he was a good coach. Obviously he now [has] a different challenge and we have our own challenge to look at.

"He was a nice guy and the stuff he’s done in football speaks for itself."

"I did block one of his shots one day [in training], he probably won't admit it. That’s my claim to fame."

For now though, full focus will be on Israel, a side manager Crawford this week described as "physical".

It’s an assertion Cashin agrees with, and he’s more than ready to face that threat head on.

"We know they’re a good team and we know they’ll be physical.

"I did block one of his shots one day [in training], he probably won't admit it. That's my claim to fame."

"We’ll do a lot of analysis, and I’m sure the coaches have already done the analysis and they’ll be passing that onto us so we know what we’re coming up against.

"I’m willing to fight with anyone, it doesn’t really matter who it is I’ll give it a good shot."

"We’ve just got to make sure we win the first game and win the second game and then we’ll be fine," he added with a laugh.

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Follow the Republic of Ireland v Israel in their UEFA Under-21 European Championship play-off this Friday (KO 7pm) via our liveblog on RTÉ.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app, or watch live on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player