Noel King ‘delighted’ at Brian Lenihan’s elevation to senior squad

Sam Byrne makes Ireland Under-21 debut against Norway

Sam Byrne scoring for the Under-19s against Iceland last May. The Everton striker will make his Under-21 debut against Norway. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho.

Sam Byrne scoring for the Under-19s against Iceland last May. The Everton striker will make his Under-21 debut against Norway. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho.

 

Brian Lenihan’s surprise promotion to the senior squad will act as an inspiration to the Republic of Ireland Under-21 side that faces Norway in this evening’s friendly in Dramman (6pm, Irish time).

The Hull City defender had played only 45 minutes at Under-21 level – in a friendly against Qatar in May while still a Cork City player – before Monday’s call-up by Martin O’Neill arrived.

Lenihan becomes the latest graduate from Noel King’s crew, a tradition that began early during his tenure in the form of Seamus Coleman, James McCarthy and Cillian Sheridan.

Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick and Shane Duffy have since followed as will Jack Grealish if he chooses to do so.

“The door to the senior squad is open for this squad,” said King yesterday. “Many of their team-mates from the earlier underage squads have already made the step-up and we’re delighted Brian has been selected by Martin in such rapid fashion . . . there are players with us here in Norway who will win full caps in the future.”

Lenihan departs for a higher stage with King’s blessing, even if it harms his plans to assemble his strongest possible side in time for the next European Championship qualification campaign that begins midway through 2015.

The latest batch of U-21s will have contested five matches before the draw for that series is made in February, with today’s workout marking the midpoint of the experimentation phase.

“We’ve another two games against USA and Russia in Marbella next month, so we’ll have had a good look at the players available to us by that point,” said King.

Everton striker Sam Byrne will make his debut along with Preston North End midfield mainstay Alan Browne and Shelbourne winger Dylan Connolly.

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