King still eyeing play-off place
Soccer:Republic of Ireland Under-21 manager Noel King remains hopeful his side can do enough in their final two group games to secure a play-off place for the Uefa Championship.
After defeat to Turkey in Sligo a fortnight ago, King’s side need to win away to Hungary on September 6th and secure another three points against Italy in Caserano four days later.
Turkey are second, five ahead of King’s men, but they have played all their qualifiers.
"We have two games to go in our group and the simple facts are that if we win the two of them we'll get at least second place and hopefully that will secure a playoff place," said King. "We can't concentrate on the Italy game until we've dealt with Hungary. We've beaten Hungary before in Sligo so we go there knowing that we are capable of winning the match.
"Of course there was disappointment after our defeat by Turkey last time out. Overall the performance was good and we played well in sections of the game but we conceded a late goal. We have to pick ourselves up now and travel with a positive mindset.
"What has been positive is that a lot of our lads have five or six more games under the belt since the Turkey game and will be sharper. Fitness wasn't an excuse for the loss to Turkey but it will definitely be helpful that the lads are a bit further into their season."
King will also be boosted by the return of Jeff Hendrick, Adam Barton, Sean Murray, Samir Carruthers and Rhys Murphy, who missed the Turkey game.
James Collins, who scored a hat-trick for Swindon Town against Stoke City in the League Cup last night, is also included.
Ireland beat Hungary 2-1 in the opening match of the campaign and held Italy to a 2-2 draw in Sligo in June.
Republic of Ireland U21 squad:Ian McLoughlin (MK Dons), Aaron McCarey (Wolves), John Egan (Sunderland), Greg Cunningham (Bristol City), Rob Kiernan (Wigan Athletic), Shane Duffy (Everton), Niall Canavan (Scunthorpe), Richie Towell (Unattached), Jeff Hendrick (Derby County), Adam Barton (Coventry City), Conor Henderson (Arsenal), Conor Clifford (Chelsea), Samir Carruthers (Aston Villa), Eunan O'Kane (Bournemouth), Sean Murray (Watford), Robbie Brady (Manchester United), Aidan White (Leeds United), Sean Scannell (Huddersfield Town), Rhys Murphy (SC Telstar), James Collins (Swindon Town).