Ireland U-21 boss Jim Crawford says he’s excited by the prospect of working with Spanish-based talents Ryan Johansson and John Joe Patrick Finn at a friendly tournament in Spain, the first time that Getafe star Finn will be involved with an Ireland squad.
The U-21s have lined up friendlies against Switzerland, Austria and Denmark in Marbella, as preparation for the next qualifying campaign for the European Championships, which kicks off in September.
Crawford has named four players from the League of Ireland, two who are attached to German clubs (Conor Noss and Dan Rose) while there’s also a chance to look at Lincoln City’s Dublin-born defender Sean Roughan, who has attracted Premier League interest and has been invited to train with Chelsea.
The recruitment of Sevilla player Johansson, following a protracted process with FIFA to make him eligible for the Republic after a spell with Luxembourg’s national team, was flagged last week but Crawford is also delighted to have finally been able to name Getafe player Finn in an Ireland squad.
Finn, who broke into the first team at Getafe in La Liga last December at the age of 17, becoming the youngest-ever player to feature in the Spanish top flight, was the subject of interest from Spain and Cameroon but he declared for Ireland, qualifying through his late Mayo-born father. Injury denied him the chance to hook up with the squad in Wales in March, but he will be present in Marbella later this week.
“For the last camp we had discussions with his mom and the club and obviously he hurt his ankle and missed out on that camp, but he’s ready to come into this camp, which is great,” says Crawford of Finn earlier today as he named a 27-man squad for the friendlies.
“The only thing is he’s got exams, he’s 17-years-old, so it’s a conversation that we’ll have with him when he comes in, to sort of see where he’s at with his exams because certainly myself and the rest of the staff would be for education. So if he comes in, trains, plays a game and then he can go home and prepare for his exams for university. But it was something that just came across my desk yesterday from his mom, so it’s certainly something that we’ll look into.
“Other than that he’s fit and he’s looking forward to coming in.
“It’s important to come in and see the group, meet the players, meet the staff and we can get a look at him as well but really looking forward to seeing him, I have to say. It feels like it’s been a long time since the episode started but it will be great.”
It was feared that injury would deny Johnansson the chance to join up but the former Bayern Munich man, currently attached to Sevilla’s B team, will be involved.
“I’d seen him play for the [Ireland] under-19s and I thought he’d done really well, he’s certainly one to keep an eye on. He had that move from Bayern Munich to Sevilla, which is phenomenal in this day and age, to get a six-year deal for someone so young,” added Crawford.
“But he’s a fantastic fellah and he’s somebody that I’ve spoken to about a year and a half ago, I reached out to him to see how he was getting on and how he was enjoying his football, and it dawned on me there when I first got the job that he would be somebody that I’d love involved in the group so I rang him and he was very excited about it, and we started getting the process underway and I have to take my hat off to everyone in the association in the background, they got it done very quick and he was delighted.
“And I’m sure you saw his interview, how passionate he is to play with Ireland, and that’s exactly the same type of tone I got from him over the phone, that he’d love to play for Ireland and put on that green jersey.
“He’s an exceptionally bright boy, a very good footballer and again I’m excited to work with him, too.
“There was a little bit of doubt about his fitness but I rang him and we had a long conversation about it, he said he was fine because he had a hamstring issue but he’s fine now and our medical team has spoken to their medical team and we’re good to go, I’m looking forward to meeting him on Thursday.”
Crawford is also excited by the prospect of working with Lincoln’s Roughan, who trained with Chelsea last week.
“It’s a huge couple of weeks for him to cement his future, wherever it’s going to be, whether it’s Chelsea, Southampton or somewhere else. But looking at him play at Lincoln, the games that we’ve seen, he’s certainly got ability, potential and this is a real opportunity for him, a really good platform. The games are on TV as well, so he’s certainly in an ideal place to showcase his talent,” he added.
Will Smallbone, Michael Obafemi, Nathan Collins, Ryan Cassidy and Evan Ferguson miss out through injury.
Goalkeepers: Sam Blair (Norwich City), Brian Maher (Bray Wanderers), Dan Rose (Schalke 04)
Defenders: Ciaran Brennan (Sheffield Wednesday), Festy Ebosele (Derby County), Shane Flynn (Leicester City), Andy Lyons (Bohemians), Oisin McEntee (Newcastle United), Mark McGuinness (Arsenal), Lewis Richards (Wolves), Sean Roughan (Lincoln City).
Midfielders: John Joe Patrick Finn Benoa (Getafe), Luca Connell (Celtic), Conor Coventry (West Ham United), Dawson Devoy (Bohemians), Alex Gilbert (Brentford), Conor Grant (Rochdale), Ryan Johansson (Sevilla), Conor Noss (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Louie Watson (Derby County).
Forwards: Jonathan Afolabi (Celtic), Will Ferry (Southampton), Joshua JJ Kayode (Rotherham United), Gavin Kilkenny (Bournemouth), Colm Whelan (UCD), Tyreik Wright (Aston Villa).
Fixtures – International Friendlies (all times are Irish times)
- Switzerland v Republic of Ireland, May 30, KO 11:00, Dama de Noche Football Centre, Marbella, Spain (Live on Premier Sports 1/ FreeSports)
- Australia v Republic of Ireland, June 2, KO 12:00, Marbella Football Centre, Marbella, Spain. (Live on Premier Sports 1/ FreeSports)
- Republic of Ireland v Denmark, June 5, KO 17:00, Dama de Noche Football Centre, Marbella, Spain. (To be shown at 21.30pm on Premier Sports 1)