King impressed by home talent
Republic of Ireland Under-21 manager Noel King intends to organise another friendly match for home-based players early in the new year following an insightful game against the Irish Amateur squad for the young charges at the AUL Complex in Clonshaugh last Saturday (Nov 20).
King, appointed to the post last July, is in the early stages of starting the selection process for his squad ahead of the 2013 UEFA Championship qualifying campaign which is due to kick off in the middle of next year.
One of King's key messages from the outset of his tenure is his interest in assessing players plying there trade in Ireland. While the majority of the Under-21 squad have been traditionally drawn from cross-channel professional clubs, King is eager to ensure the best talent in Ireland is given its chance on the international stage.
It was within this context that Saturday's game was arranged. King got to see 17 of the finest domestically-based players showcase their capabilities against Gerry Smith's UEFA Region's Cup-bound Amateur side.
A goal in each half by Karl Sheppard settled an evenly contested game 2-0 in favour of the Under-21s.
Sheppard fired King's side ahead in the first half from Paddy Madden's low cross but the Amateurs, who confirmed their place in next summer's UEFA Regions Cup by progressing from a qualifying group featuring Italy (Abruzzo), France (Ligue de Normandie) and San Marino, created enough chances to level.
Glen Keddy forced a superb save from Kevin Burns as the first half came to a close and after the interval Mark Cullen was unlucky to see his goal-bound volley blocked by Under-21s' substitute Paul Corry.
Immediately after that crucial intervention by Corry, his team doubled their advantage. Sheppard was brought down in the box by Paul McCabe, enabling the Under-23 international to step up and tuck his spot-kick safely into the bottom left corner.
King considered himself satisfied with the exercise afterwards, admitting the performance gave him plenty to ponder in the months ahead.
He said: "Saturday's game was a very worthwhile event because it allowed me to have a closer look at these players within our own setting. Its one thing watching them playing club football but another seeing them operate in an altogether environment like this.
"Gerry Smith's squad have done the country proud by reaching the Region's Cup finals and they gave our lads a decent game. The scoreline probably flattered us a bit.
"I know that there are plenty of quality players with clubs in Ireland and I will be keeping a close watch on them. Indeed, I am planning another run-out for home-based players in the new year when others will get their chance to impress. This is an ongoing process; Saturday's game didn't decide anyone's future in the squad.
"Many young players have been with League of Ireland clubs before moving abroad to play at the top level of English football. I've no doubt that will happen again to some more in the current game."
Republic of Ireland Under 21: Burns (Waterford United), Lopez (Bohemian FC), Stevens (Shamrock Rovers), Jason Dwane (UCD), Nagle (UCD); Kearns (Dundalk), G. Kelly (Bray Wanderers), O'Brien (St. Patrick's Athletic), J. Kelly (Bray Wanderers); Madden (Bohemians), Sheppard (Galway United).
Subs (all used at h/t): Hanley (Mervue United), Dixon (Bohemians), Corry (UCD), Ward (UCD), Shields (Bray Wanderers).
Republic of Ireland Amateurs: L. Murphy; Cherry, P. Murphy, P. McCabe, Dillon; Lee, O'Brien, Keddy, Campbell; Sherlock, Kavanagh.
Subs used: Cullen, Giffney, Matthews, Meleady, Meehan, Tiernon, Glen.
Referee: Tom Connolly.