Jim Crawford confident John Joe Finn will be a part of his squad

The Madrid born teenager has featured in midfield for Getafe despite being just 17

Republic of Ireland under-21 manager Jim Crawford says is confident that 17 year-old midfielder John Joe Finn will be a part of his squad for the forthcoming European Championship qualifying campaign with the Madrid born teenager having firmly indicated his desire to play for Ireland.

Finn, whose father was born in Ballyhaunis, has a number of international options but the FAI presented to him and his family a couple of months back and Crawford says that the player would have been included in his squad for next week’s friendly game in Wales but for an ankle injury that has sidelined him for 10 days or so.

The manager believes that Finn’s decision will have been influenced by the rapid progress of other young players to the Irish senior squad in recent months, something he says he has been using as a selling point to young prospects with a decision on their international future to make.

“I say to players when I am talking to them on the phone, that there’s an opportunity now for players who are performing well at their club,” says Crawford.

"I think the pathway to the senior team now is as strong as ever . . . you have the likes of Jason Knight, Jayson Molumby, Caoimhin (Kelleher), who we've been speaking about. Gavin (Bazunu), it's there for everyone to see now. There is an opportunity that if you are playing well at club level or you come into the under-21s and do well, there is that opportunity of a senior call up.

“At the end of the day, if you are involved with a country that has a serious pool of players, if you are playing well with your club, there’s a possibility of a national call up but with Ireland I think there’s a probability that, let’s say you are a striker who is scoring goals, you will get a senior call up.

“It’s there for everyone to see,” he says, “that it’s a strong pathway into the senior squad at the moment. I think it’s exciting.”

Finn, who has featured in midfield for Getafe despite being just 17, has been a major target for the FAI and though he misses out this time because of injury, Crawford says that he is now on board.

Positive

“I’ve been speaking to John Joe and his mam and he certainly wants to play for the Republic of Ireland,” says the manager. “Unfortunately he picked up an injury and so he is out for 10 or 12 days so that’s a little bit of a disappointment for us and for John Joe but we had a lot of conversations over the last number of weeks and they were all positive.

“I have no doubt that, perhaps in the next window, and if everything is fine with regard to injuries, that we will have John Joe Finn onboard.”

Ireland don’t start their next European qualification campaign until September but Crawford - who named a substantially new group of players on Thursday in his squad for the Wales game next week - says he expects the team to participate in an invitation tournament in Spain in early summer as a key element of their preparation.

Squad for friendly in Wales on March 26th

Brian Maher (Bray Wanderers), Dan Rose (Schalke 04); Shane Flynn (Leicester City), Andy Lyons (Bohemians), Mark McGuinness (Ipswich Town), Oisin McEntee (Newcastle United), Andrew Omobamidele (Norwich City), Lee O’Connor (Tranmere Rovers), Mason O’Malley (Scunthorpe United), Lewis Richards (Wolves), Conor Coventry (West Ham United), Conor Grant (Rochdale), Dawson Devoy (Bohemians), Alex Gilbert (Brentford), Conor Noss (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Louis Watson (Derby County), Jonathan Afolabi (Dundee), Will Ferry (Southampton), Gavin Kilkenny (Bournemouth), Joshua Kayode (Carlisle United) Ademipo Odubeko (West Ham), Tyreik Wright (Walsall).