Under-21 | Jim's programme notes ahead of Iceland
It’s almost a year to the day since the Under 21s were playing in a packed Tallaght Stadium against Sweden. This year, we are playing behind closed doors in the middle of a pandemic that has caused so much pain and grievance to so many.
I have seen first-hand the work the FAI have been doing to keep programmes running throughout the country. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, we can all get back to normality and attend games, training sessions and football programmes.
Like countless others, I have family and friends who are frontline workers during this pandemic. We need to stay diligent and follow the necessary protocols to see this through, especially during these Level 5 restrictions.
Despite no fans being present, today will be one of the proudest days of my career. My staff and myself consider it a great privilege to manage this team, and these players.
I am delighted with the backroom team I have been able to assemble too. Alan Reynolds has been a manager with Waterford FC where he did an excellent job. From an outstanding playing career for both club and country, John O’Shea is now part of the coaching staff at Reading FC where he is highly regarded.
I only met Rene Gilmartin during this campaign but he has continually impressed me with his input, work ethic and knowledge. He is an asset to Bristol City and our team. Martin Doyle is our lead analyst who like all of our staff has an exceptional work rate and produces quality work to an unbelievably high standard.
It’s well over 18 months since our campaign began with a win here in Tallaght Stadium against Luxembourg, and we are now in the closing stages. We finish the campaign next week against the same opponents.
Last month, we played the top seeds Italy, in Pisa. The game was always going to be a real challenge, against a quality side. We played very well and controlled the game at times. I discussed with the players the need to be more clinical with chances and have more of a cutting edge as a team higher up the pitch. I hope to see that today.
It is a pleasure to coach this squad of talented players who thrive putting on the green shirt and enjoy playing football in the way that is encouraged throughout our Pathway. They have confidence in possession, and can excel in attack.
The loss in Italy was the first time we conceded more than one goal in a game this campaign. We need to return to keeping a clean sheet today. That takes a team effort, from our attackers through to our goalkeeper.
These players wear the Irish jersey with immense pride. Those who are left out are extremely disappointed. It’s because they care. They are committed and they too want to show the fans their talents.
Iceland are today’s opponents. They were third seeds in our group, and were ranked ahead of ourselves when the draw was made. We saw in Reykjavik that they were a physical and athletic team. Arnar Viðarsson has some excellent players who can make a serious impact on any game. They are above all very organised and will prove to be a real test for our players this afternoon.
It would have been fantastic to play in front of a packed Tallaght Stadium this afternoon, but we know you will be watching us from home.
Stay safe and enjoy the game,
Read the full digital programme ahead of today's game with Iceland, below