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15 League of Ireland players set to belatedly link up with Crawford's squad as crucial qualifiers beckon

Sligo’s Johnny Kenny, Drogheda’s Killian Phillips and Shelbourne’s Kameron Ledwidge are among the youngsters coming in.

Sligo Rovers' Johnny Kenny is among the players set to link up with the squad.
Sligo Rovers' Johnny Kenny is among the players set to link up with the squad.
Image: Evan Logan/INPHO

15 ADDITIONAL home-based players will today link up with Jim Crawford’s Ireland U21 squad amid uncertainty over Tuesday’s qualifier in Montenegro.

Montenegro is currently on the UK and Germany’s red list, meaning players based in those countries, as it stands, have to quarantine before returning if they were to make the trip. 

None of the newly added players will be available for Friday’s clash at home to Luxembourg, but barring any late changes to governmental policy, it is expected that they will be needed for Tuesday’s game in Gradski Stadion, Podgorica.

They will train separately from the main group initially, before linking up with their colleagues ahead of next week’s clash.

Ronan Boyce (Derry City), Kameron Ledwidge (Shelbourne) Josh Honohan (Cork City), Alex Murphy (Galway United), Niall O’Keefe (Waterford), Andrew Quinn (Bray Wanderers, on loan from Dundalk), Evan Weir (UCD) make up the defenders.

Evan McLaughlin (Derry City), Niall Morahan (Sligo Rovers), Darragh Nugent (Longford Town, on loan from Shamrock Rovers) and Killian Phillips (Drogheda United) provide back-up in midfield.

While Johnny Kenny (Sligo), Brandon Kavanagh (Bray Wanderers, on loan from Shamrock Rovers), Cian Kavanagh (Waterford) and Dean Williams (Longford Town, on loan from Shamrock Rovers) could be needed in attack.

“It’s certainly not a distraction because I’m fully focused on the game against Luxembourg tomorrow,” Crawford said at today’s press conference.

“But there’s been no word, we still don’t know. We’re just carrying on regardless. We’ve got a group coming in later on and they’ll train. We’ve just got to prepare as we’ve been instructed by Uefa. Whether that changes between now and Tuesday, I don’t know, but we just can’t rely on anybody else in a situation like this. We need to prepare and prepare well because Montenegro will be a really difficult challenge, as they’ve shown already playing against the likes of Sweden and Italy. They competed very well.”

Pressed on whether he regarded the situation as unacceptable, Crawford responded: “Yeah look, at the end of the day, we’re sort of guided by Uefa in this situation and they’ve told us ‘no’ at this point of time, we’ve got to sort out the situation with Montenegro. Montenegro obviously want to play the game. There are UK updates today with regards to the story with the red lists and all we can do is make sure we’re right on our end. Between now and Tuesday anything can happen. The red list may be lifted off them, I don’t know.”

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Ollie O’Neill (unwell) and Will Ferry (hamstring) are the only doubts for Friday’s clash with Luxembourg, as the Irish team aim to improve on last month’s 1-1 draw in Dudelange.

Crawford’s men currently have four points from two games and will know a further six are ideally required against the two lowest-seeded teams in the group.

On tomorrow’s clash at Tallaght, the first time they play in front of a crowd there in nearly two years, Crawford said: “It’s important we don’t start rushing things and forcing things. Luxembourg will come, they’ll be organised, it’ll be a different pitch than we played on over in Luxembourg because Tallaght’s surface is a fantastic pitch as we all know. It’s big so it’s up to us too to utilise that and exploit the spaces. We’ve got a game plan and the players here are disciplined, they’re clever and talented enough to stick to that.

“It’s just great to be able to play in front of fans at Tallaght Stadium [again] and the players are really looking forward to it. The buzz last year in the campaign was great. I was speaking to a couple of players during the week and they loved the whole atmosphere that Tallaght brought in the campaign last year so they’re looking for more of that.

“One thing I can say, the fans will be impressed with the group that we have here because we have a very good bunch.”

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