The Ireland under-21s are to play a friendly game against Wales in Wrexham on March 26th. It will be a first opportunity for manager Jim Crawford to weigh up his options for the 2023 European Championship campaign which will get under way with a game against Bosnia and Herzegovina in September.
“The camp will set the tone for what we’re looking for with the under-21s for the upcoming campaign,” says Crawford of the game, which is scheduled for the 26th, “and we’ll be aiming for a positive performance and result against Wales. It’s an opportunity for us to embed our vision for the under-21s team which is a confident and exciting team that plays possession-based football.
“We’ll miss the likes of the injured Nathan Collins, Michael Obafemi and Will Smallbone (all of whom are injured) but this is a chance for the new faces to come in and gel with those players who featured with us in the last campaign and understand the standards that are required.”
“Like Ireland,” he continued, “Wales have a lot of talented players who have a pathway to the senior team so this has the makings of an exciting game. Players from both nations know good performances can increase their chances of a call-up to the senior team so they’ll be out to impress.”
Ireland’s last campaign to qualify for a major tournament for the very first time at this level, ended in disappointment last November when a home defeat by Iceland resulted in the team missing out on second place in its qualification despite having made a strong start to the campaign.
Though a number of even the most talented players remain eligible, it remains to be seen who will still be involved at this level and who will be brought into the senior set up by Stephen Kenny who had previously worked to such positive effect with them when he was in charge of the under-21s.