Jim Crawford and Ireland U21 squad share in Faro excitement from afar

Under-21 side in action against Bosnia & Herzegovina on Friday

Ireland goalkeeper  Gavin Bazunu saves a penalty from Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo  during the World Cup qualifier in Faro. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Ireland goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu saves a penalty from Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo during the World Cup qualifier in Faro. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

European Championship U21 qualifier: Bosnia and Herzegovina v Republic of Ireland, FF BH Football Training Centre, Zenica, Friday, 3.30pm

Ireland under-21 manager Jim Crawford would be forgiven for wondering how good his team could be if senior boss Stephen Kenny had not denied him weapons like Gavin Bazunu, Adam Idah, Aaron Connolly, Andrew Omobamidele and Troy Parrott but his squad was far too excited by what they witnessed in Faro – for 88 minutes anyway – from their base near Zenica.

“I was really proud,” said Crawford. “It was some stage for them to perform. A fantastic effort by each and every one of them.

“Gavin’s penalty save, it’s funny, we were all watching the game last night and I think everybody in the room had a really good feeling he would save it. It was fantastic for him.

“Throughout the team, I thought Dara O’Shea was outstanding until his injury. I thought he was a rock, some unbelievable blocks. Aaron Connolly was a threat, probably he could need more games but he is a serious threat.

16-year-old Evan Ferguson has moved to Brighton from Bohemians and is part of Jim Crawford’s under-21 set-up. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
16-year-old Evan Ferguson has moved to Brighton from Bohemians and is part of Jim Crawford’s under-21 set-up. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

“I thought Adam Idah was excellent. I thought he held it up at times when he really needed to, got us up to pitch, he was running the channels and causing all sorts of problems.

“I have to say it was a fantastic performance. I just sent Stephen a text last night, a heartfelt message saying it was a tough one to take, which it was, because I thought the performance was exceptional. But looking a little bit deeper into it, you’ve got to be excited. Jayson Molumby came on, so when you look past the result and all that, I’d say we’re in a nice place with the young lads coming through.”

Not that Crawford is short of exciting talent with 16-year-old Brighton striker Evan Ferguson continuing his rise through the ranks following his League of Ireland debut for Bohemians at just 14. Bournemouth’s midfield regular Gavin Kilkenny is expected to be Ireland’s stand-out performer against a strong Bosnia and Herzegovina team.

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