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'No doubt about it, we're still in this European Championship' - Ireland U21 boss

Ireland have two big qualifying games next month after losing out to Italy this evening.

Connor Ronan in action for the Ireland U21s.
Connor Ronan in action for the Ireland U21s.
Image: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND U21 manager Jim Crawford says his side are still very much in contention to reach their first-ever European Championship, despite suffering a qualification blow against Italy this evening.

Crawford’s charges lost out 2-0 in a top-of-the-table clash in Group 1 in Pisa.

The Italians scored in each half to secure the three points after being forced to start with six members of their U20 squad due to an outbreak of Covid-19.

The Ireland squad was also depleted as a number of players were unavailable due to the senior game against Finland tomorrow. Caoimhín Kelleher, Dara O’Shea, Jason Knight, Jayson Molumby, Adam Idah and Aaron Connolly were all among the notable absentees, while the injured Troy Parrott was also a huge loss.

“Very disappointed for sure,” Crawford said afterwards, with two big games against Iceland and Luxembourg to follow next month.

“The first half, I thought after the first 10 minutes when the game had to settle, we were the first team to settle and we controlled it without essentially creating too many clear-cut chances.

“We had a couple of crosses where we could have had somebody in the box to score. That  didn’t happen but in terms of controlling the game, we did.

“We conceded in the 43rd minute. We just switched off for a moment down the right hand side and got inside us and scored. The message to the players at half-time was ‘keep doing what you’re doing, keep controlling the game.’”

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Crawford added that his side were less composed in the second half as legs began to tire, but is still proud of his side’s display as Ireland aim to take six points from next month’s double-header of games.

There’s no doubt about it, we’re still in this European Championship, but the thing is we need six points from our next two games. That’s for sure.

“We’re in an unbelievable position. To take a step back and look at our performance, particularly in the first half. I’m just proud of the players and look, we just got a bit tired.

“It affects our concentration and the second half wasn’t near the level we were at for the first half but in another month, we’ll be at more competitive minutes in player’s legs which will help us in our last remaining games of the group.

“It’s disappointing but we’ve got two [big games left]. The one against Iceland is massive. We had a chat about it in the dressing room and said, ‘look we need six points.’”

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