Kenny to hand out Under-21 call ups as Forrester returns

Manager set to name locally based group for training camp starting on February 4th

Stephen Kenny will select his first international squad on Thursday with the recently installed Republic of Ireland Under-21 manager set to name a locally based group for a training camp which is scheduled to start on February 4th.

The camp, which will include a game on February 6th against the Irish amateur team, will form an important part of Kenny’s preparations for the European Championship qualification campaign, which gets under way in March, and will also provide the first firm indication of which Airtricity League players are in contention to play a part in that.

Kenny’s appointment has generated a fair bit of expectation in league circles about the likelihood of there being greater opportunities for players still with clubs here to feature at Under-21 level. Squads have tended to be dominated by players signed to British clubs with the team often used, it seemed, to get English-born players to declare for Ireland.

Noel King’s final squad last year included just three playing with Irish clubs and there is said to be a certain amount of anxiety out in Abbotstown over the potential for Kenny to actually cause problems for the league by prompting a steady stream of postponements through the inclusion of a good many more.

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Kenny has repeatedly suggested in the past that he felt more players here had done enough to earn international opportunities and that the league, while still needing to improve, was generally producing players of a higher standard than it was generally given credit for.

A couple of those to have gone in recent seasons are in the process of returning, however, with Chris Forrester signing a three-year deal back at St Patrick's, Kevin O'Connor apparently in talks with Cork City on Wednesday with Waterford having already made him an approach and Andy Boyle weighing up offers from Dundalk and Scotland.

Supporters

Forrester’s return to Inchicore was well received by supporters of St Patrick’s Athletic who also confirmed the arrival of former Rangers and Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Rhys McCabe who arrives off the back of a good season and a half at Sligo Rovers.

“With everything that’s been going on in my life,” Forrester said, “I was always going to be coming back to Pats. It’s a club that’s very close to my heart. It gives me a fresh start. I’m around my family, my little girl, friends and I’m at a club that generally likes me.”

Forrester left in the summer 2015 for Peterborough where his early form generated huge excitement but the now 26-year-old seemed to lose his way somewhat and was ultimately sold to Aberdeen for around €225,000 last summer.

He appears not to have settled well there and his contract was cancelled on Tuesday. He chose a return to Richmond ahead of a few other options, it seems, most notably Dundalk.

Former under-age international Joe Rafferty, meanwhile, has signed for Preston. The 25-year-old right back started out at Liverpool's academy but has been at Rochdale where he played more that 200 games.

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Industry and Employment Correspondent at The Irish Times