VIDEO | Crawford sets sights on qualification mission

VIDEO | Crawford sets sights on qualification mission

Republic of Ireland Under-21 manager Jim Crawford has set his sights on European Championships qualification following his appointment to the position.
8th Apr 2020

Crawford was appointed the U-21 manager over the weekend after Stephen Kenny stepped up to the senior role.

Crawford, a member of Kenny's U-21 coaching staff, will now be manager of the team, assisted by former international John O'Shea.

The former Newcastle and Shelbourne midfielder will lead the team into the final three qualifying matches for the UEFA U-21 European Championships qualifying campaign with Ireland top of Group One.

The finals tournament has been pushed back to 2022 due to the COVID-19 crisis with matches against Iceland, Luxembourg and Italy to be rescheduled.

Ireland have never qualified for the European Championships finals at U-21 level and Crawford is determined to get the squad over the line and qualify for the tournament in Hungary and Slovakia.

"It's a huge honour for me to take up the role. I was delighted to be asked and I couldn't wait to accept the position," said Crawford.

"I've been part of the coaching staff with the team for the past 13 months and we've seen a fantastic development of the team. We've played an incredible amount of matches but done brilliantly in the qualifying campaign and also, in the Toulon Tournament.

"We're in a great position. We're top of the group with three matches remaining. We've never qualified for the finals tournament at this level and that has to be the aim. If we could qualify, it would be incredible for the players but also the country as well."

Crawford was previously the manager of the Republic of Ireland U-18 team before he took up the role in Kenny's U-21 coaching staff.

Over the course of 2019, 36 players featured for the U-21 side in 12 fixtures and Crawford has pointed to the depth of talent he will get to work with, and is excited about the future of Irish football.

"I've been saying it for a long time, there is real talent coming through the system," continued Crawford.

"It's there for everybody to see now and over the years, I've worked with the likes of Adam Idah and Jason Knight, players of that calibre at such a young age and it really is an exciting time for Irish football.

"When I had those players at U-18 level, which is a challenging age group as it is non-competitive, but they played like their lives depended on it. It shows the commitment they've got in playing for their country but also, the quality we have.

"I'm excited to be able to continue working with them and I've got no doubt it, there are a few players who might push up to the senior squad. We'll look to fill those voids if that does happen but we've got fantastic strength in depth and it'll open up the opportunity to someone else."