Kilkenny in line to make his debut for Republic’s U-21s against Armenia

Bournemouth midfielder has impressed with his club since pre-season

Rep of Ireland Under-21 v Armenia Under-21, Tallaght Stadium, Friday, 8pm

Bournemouth midfielder Gavin Kilkenny could make his debut for the Irish Under-21s in Tallaght on Friday night (kick-off 8.0) as Stephen Kenny is forced into making changes for his side's second game of their European Championship campaign.

Ireland won their opener, against Luxembourg, 3-0 back in March but one of the goalscorers that night, Neil Farrugia, is ruled out by a hamstring problem while another of the manager's midfield options, Zack Elbouzedi, is a doubt as he has only returned from injury, leaving Kilkenny who made quite an impact at club level in preseason, as a firm contender to start

“Someone like Gavin really wasn’t on my radar and hadn’t been in the 19s,” says Kenny.

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“Now all of a sudden, he’s had a really good preseason at Bournemouth, got in the team, done well and scored a good goal against Lyon. He has developed physically in that year and has pushed himself into the frame. I wasn’t even considering him in March.

“I haven’t seen him since the preseason but I’d seen him before and I have obviously watched all of his matches on WyScout. I had planned to go to the Forest Green match last Wednesday [when Kilkenny made his senior competitive debut for Bournemouth, getting 84 minutes of their League Cup game] but the squad announcement here was moved to Wednesday then and I had to change my plans.

“He played in the centre of the midfield in a four-four-two in that one where as he was always a very light winger before. But he played as the only young player in that team, the only young player they brought in, and he never gives the ball away. He is one of those players who doesn’t lose possession.”

Unknown quantity

Iceland play Luxembourg in Friday’s other group game with the two top seeds, Italy and Sweden (who Kenny’s men play away on Tuesday) not kicking off their campaigns until next week. This will be a first outing for Armenia who, the Irish manager, admits are a little tricky to assess right now.

“I don’t think they have a deep squad, but their forward players are quick,” he says. “They counterattack fast, sharp passing, technically good, there is a bit of speed in the team.

“But they are somewhat of an unknown quantity; they haven’t played many games. I saw their 19s in the Euros [which they hosted] but they haven’t promoted too many from the 19s. Obviously their centre forward in the 19s is in this squad. So they are somewhat of an unknown quantity, but they have quick passing and some speed in their forward line.”

Kenny, who is in line to take over the senior team from Mick McCarthy next year, is hoping to lead Ireland to a tournament finals for the very first time at this level. The squad includes a number of the group that reached the semi-finals of the Toulon tournament back in June and Tottenham Hotspur striker Troy Parrott is amongst the attacking talents expected to feature.

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Industry and Employment Correspondent at The Irish Times