Ireland U21 v Portugal U21: Oriel Monday 7.30pm
THE Republic of Ireland U21 side will look to build on their recent impressive victories over Italy and the Netherlands when they host Portugal at Oriel Park tomorrow (7.30pm).
Head Coach Noel King admitted that the switch to the artificial surface at the Dundalk venue may be an uncomfortable one for some players but that ultimately it may prove useful as the Irish could potentially face the Faroe Islands on a similar surface in the UEFA Championships qualifiers.
“I was delighted with how we played against the Dutch last time out. It was a good performance against a top level opponent and the Portugal game will be a similar test,” said King.
“We will have a look at some of the players that didn’t start the last game as it is very important we have a look at everybody at this level.
“It’s good to be able to add Graham Burke to the squad as he’s another attacking option. He has played first team football with Aston Villa this season and has been in very good form in the Next Gen series.”
St Patrick’s Athletic midfielder Chris Forrester is the only home-based player in the squad and the Dubliner feels he can begin to show his full potential now that he has been in the group for the second time.
“It was a fantastic feeling to make my debut against Holland last month especially as it was in front of my family and friends,” said Forrester.
“The second thing is that it will obviously be good for my career to play at this level. I want to play at the highest level I can and proving myself with the U21 team can only be good for that.
“I don’t believe there is much difference between the Premier Division of the Airtricity League and U21 level. There are good players in both but it is a different style of play and I have to prove myself at that level.
“People say to me that they think it takes me a while to settle into a group and they’re probably right. I’m getting to know the squad in the U21s a lot better now and I feel that I can start to show what I can do.
“For the group we are all determined to get out of our group and qualify for the UEFA Championships and ultimately the Olympic Games in Brazil 2016 so we’ve an awful lot to play for.”
Forrester is a graduate of the FAI FAS football scheme after emerging as a real late developer. He basically just played street football until he joined leading schoolboy club Belvedere FC at U17 level.
“I always just wanted to play with my mates and never imagined I’d play at a high level of the game. Now I’m in an international squad playing for my country and I’m focused on making a career out of football,” he said.
“I know that I have to add more to my game and the strength and conditioning side of things is the obvious thing. I’ve worked a lot with the St Patrick’s Athletic strength coaching Ger McDermott and I feel like I’m developing well on that side.”
Entry prices are €10 for adults, €5 for children. There will be free entry to the game for patrons with a ticket for the World Cup qualifier Republic of Ireland v Austria plus FAI Vantage Club and FAI Season Ticket holders.