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'I don't see why we would change our philosophy when we're top of the group'

Darragh Leahy has played down talk of change within the Irish U21 set-up.

Darragh Leahy (file pic).
Darragh Leahy (file pic).
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

THE PERSONNEL MAY be slightly different, but Darragh Leahy insists the overriding philosophy remains the same with the Ireland U21 team.

The Irish side are currently top of Group 1, three points ahead of Italy, who have a game in hand.

The Boys in Green travel to face the Italians on Tuesday, knowing a win would put them in strong contention to qualify.

However, much has changed since the team’s last competitive outing — the 4-1 win at home to Sweden in November 2019.

Jim Crawford has succeeded Stephen Kenny as manager, after the latter’s promotion, while key players in Jayson Molumby, Adam Idah and Aaron Connolly are no longer available, having established themselves in the senior set-up.

However, Darragh Leahy insists the squad remains strong ahead of their vital fixture in Pisa, and that Crawford, previously Kenny’s assistant, won’t be making any drastic changes to how the team play.

“I don’t see why we would change our philosophy when we’re top of the group and it’s been working so well. It would be a bit silly to change it when there are only three games left. Jim obviously has his own ideas, which may be different, but all in all, it’s quite similar.

“We had a training camp last month, so we kind of got to know each other and know the new coaching staff. There are other players in other positions that are playing in the Premier League, so I don’t think there’ll be too much of a difference.”

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The last match at home to Italy in Tallaght was a closely fought 0-0 draw, and Leahy believes it won’t be much different this time around against the top seeds.

I don’t think they’ll be too different. It’s unusual for a team to change their philosophy. In the campaign, there are only a couple of games left. They’re playing Iceland on Friday night, so we’ll get a better idea then [of the situation]. But like all Italian teams, they like to express themselves. We’re obviously doing our homework on them, we know their strengths and weaknesses so we’re going to be confident enough going over there putting in a performance.”

Beating Italy would complete a dream couple of weeks for Leahy, after the defender was involved as Dundalk secured their spot in the Europa League group stages earlier this month.

“The two new lads [Filippo Giovagnoli and Giuseppe Rossi] came in and no disrespect but no one knew who they were, or where they came from, they had little experience. To be fair, they’ve done unbelievably well. We’ve qualified for the group stage. All the boys have been buying into what they’ve been doing. I think a lot of people will respect them more now.”

And his reaction to the draw that saw the Lilywhites pitted against Arsenal, Rapid Vienna and Molde?

“Delighted. I don’t think we could have asked for a better group. Arsenal are a massive team. No disrespect to the other two but we have to look at them and be confident that we get some results against them.”

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Paul Fennessy

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