'He gets us playing' - Praise for Ireland's man of the match

Skipper Conor Coventry had a hand in one goal and scored another as the U21 side overcame Luxembourg.

Ireland’s Conor Coventry poses for a selfie after the game.
Ireland’s Conor Coventry poses for a selfie after the game.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

CONOR COVENTRY impressed as Ireland U21s secured an important 2-0 win over Luxembourg in last night’s Euros qualifier at Tallaght Stadium.

The 21-year-old midfielder was named man of the match by RTÉ after an eye-catching display.

Coventry scored from the penalty spot to put Ireland 2-0 up, while he also had a hand in the first goal, playing a lovely crossfield pass to Tyreik Wright, whose low cross was converted by Joshua Kayode.

“He’s very comfortable in possession, a great captain,” boss Jim Crawford said afterwards. “We had a chat after the last window and he said he would take penalties. As soon as we got it it wasn’t an issue at all. He gets us playing, he’s a great passer of a ball. He played a great diagonal ball for Tyreik for the goal. Fantastic pass.”

The West Ham youngster is on loan at Peterborough this season and he has made six appearances in the Championship so far.

A regular presence in the U21 side since Stephen Kenny was in charge, Coventry was also called into the Irish senior squad briefly last March following Conor Hourihane’s withdrawal through injury.

And Crawford admits he may lose Coventry once again to the senior setup soon if he maintains his current level of performance.

“I know he is on the radar because he has already been in with the senior team and if he goes up, then great. He deserves it because he is a fantastic fella. He is doing very well at Peterborough as well. He’s got a bright future, for sure.”

“Cov is a great player, he sets the tone for us,” adds team-mate Kayode. “He is a great leader and a great captain as well. He is someone that we are happy to have in the team and to be our captain.”

Ireland will travel to play Montenegro in their next qualifier on Tuesday and the availability of many players for that game remains uncertain.

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

Crawford, who had to call up a backup squad comprising solely of home-based players, believes at least some of his UK stars will be able to feature.

“We have a few that can come. Gavin Kilkenny is okay, I think JJ Kayode has got a green light as well but, other than that, we are still waiting. We are in communication with the clubs to let us know and, for me, at the end of the day, I asked what do we do here.

“It’s out of our control and Uefa has said, well, you have to play the game. Then you work backwards and ask who can we get. Okay then, it’s a home-based squad that we need to call up because we’ll be left short if we don’t do it.

“Clubs will say no, you called them outside the window or the designated time, so we had to do what we had to do and we stand by it. It’s either forfeit the game or go with a home-based group. There’s nothing in between and the group don’t want to forfeit.”

So basically, it boils down to whether the clubs are happy for the players to travel and quarantine for a period thereafter.

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Crawford adds: “There’s an isolation period of X amount of days so the club has to be in agreement with that. So the club might turn around and go no, we’re not comfortable with it.

“So we still have that 10-day isolation. You can leave one day to go training or play a game and the club is either comfortable with that or not.”

And has anyone been ruled out?

“Oisin McEntee is ruled out. Can we challenge that? I don’t know.

“It’s been far from ideal the whole thing. It is what it is, we’ve done everything in our power to get straight answers and Uefa says we’ll leave it to you to decide. Montenegro wanted to play the game, so we looked, what do we do, we have to play a home-based team.”

Consequently, with the group flying out on Saturday, Crawford was facing a hectic few hours of phone calls with various clubs after Friday night’s game, though the backup squad will travel regardless.

“I haven’t slept at all in days! It’s been horrendous, there is no coaching course in the world that teaches you anything like this.” 

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Paul Fennessy

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