September gone, after a string of impressive performances for Noel King’s Republic Of Ireland Under-21 side, Robbie Brady was called up to Giovanni Trapattoni’s senior set up. This meant he missed the final European Championship Group 7 Qualifier with Italy. But King’s side recorded a famous victory on Italian soil on September 10th.
Goals from Sean Murray, Derrick Williams, Aaron Doran and the stand out effort from Conor Henderson saw Ireland win 4-2 in a game that also saw two red cards for the visitors and two instances of floodlight failure. It was a dramatic climax to Ireland’s campaign. But more importantly it was the foundation for further development in the Irish Under-21 set up.
Proving that the Italian victory was not a freak result but a culmination of a series of promising displays throughout the qualifying campaign, Ireland last month took on their Dutch counterparts at Shamrock Rovers’ Tallaght Stadium and ran out comfortable 3-0 winners with a penalty from Anthony Forde and two goals from Crawley Town striker Aiden O’Brien.
Monday evening sees the visit of further high calibre European opposition in Portugal. This is the final friendly for King’s men before their first UEFA Championship qualifier, away against The Faroe Islands in August. Tomorrow’s game which will be played at a quite possibly bitter Oriel Park in Dundalk, might not be conducive to a neat or graceful game when the artificial surface is considered. However with the possibility of the trip to The Faroe Islands being played on a similar surface, the test will be a relevant one.
King has made clear his intention to start some players who didn’t start against Portugal and St. Patrick’s Athletics' innovative midfielder Chris Forrester, who made his debut as a substitute last month, looks set to start.
Ireland have a tough task to qualify for the finals in the Czech Republic in 2015. The aforementioned Faroese aside, Ireland will also face Montenegro, Romania and similar to their senior counterparts, demanding home and away fixtures with Germany.
Victory against Portugal is quite possible, but more relevant is the continuation of the performance of Noel Kings side as a cohesive and potent unit. The late change of venue from Tallaght was a necessary one taking into account the recent weather. But with momentum on their side it hopefully won’t affect the home side’s performance.