Joe Hodge hoping Ireland under-21s take up where they left off against Israel

Wolves midfielder believes Ireland have nothing to fear ahead of the second leg of Euro play-off

Joe Hodge hopes Ireland can start in Tel Aviv on Tuesday where they left off in Tallaght on Friday by putting Israel on the back foot in the second leg of their Euro under-21 playoff.

Ireland outplayed Israel for large parts of the first leg, which finished 1-1, and certainly created more goalscoring chances on the night.

Evan Ferguson’s 64th-minute header brought Ireland level last Friday and while Jim Crawford’s side pushed for a winner during the remainder of the game they were unable to force a second.

Hodge made his under-21 debut for Ireland on the night and was industrious in the middle of the field. The Wolves player was taken off during the second half but hopes to feature again in Israel.


“I enjoyed it, especially the first half. I thought we had a right go of it. It’s a shame we didn’t come away with more to take into Tuesday, but it’s definitely a good start for us,” said the former Manchester City starlet, who moved to Wolves in 2021.

“I think we had them on the back foot for the majority of the first half. The intensity was high, we were pushing. Stopped them getting out from the back. Definitely, they didn’t enjoy the start of the game.”

Hodge believes Ireland have nothing to fear ahead of the second leg and says it would be a huge accomplishment for the group to make history and become the first Irish team to qualify for the Euros at under-21 level.

“It’s been a long campaign, I’ve not been involved in all of it, so the other lads would know better than me how hard it’s been to get to this point. I can see what it means to them, how hard they have worked to get here. And it means everything to me, it’s a huge opportunity. We have never qualified before so to qualify would be brilliant.”

Aaron Connolly was the standout player in Friday night’s draw and Hodge says it was fantastic to play behind the Brighton man, who is currently on loan with Venezia in Italy.

“I thought Aaron was brilliant. Running in behind constantly, causing their centre halves problems all night. It’s a great out ball to have. He’s a top player and he showed that.

“We know there’s another game to come, we’re not getting ahead of ourselves. It’s only half-time and we’re not ahead, so we have to go there and put another good performance in, so I’m ready for that, focused on it.”

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times