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'They've been on trial at Man City, but I'm sure there are other clubs watching them'

Ireland U21 boss Stephen Kenny had words of encouragement for UCD pair Neil Farrugia and Liam Scales.

UCD's Neil Farrugia (file pic)
UCD's Neil Farrugia (file pic)
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

IRELAND U21 BOSS Stephen Kenny says he will not encourage UCD duo Liam Scales and Neil Farrugia one way over another over whether to make a move abroad.

The pair, who have been included in today’s Ireland U21 squad, have attracted acclaim for their performances with the Students of late.

Attacker Farrugia and centre-back Scales both recently went on trial to Premier League giants Man City, with UCD boss Collie O’Neill last month commenting: “All I know on it so far is Manchester City have made contact with the club and it’s still ongoing.”

And speaking today, Kenny said he would be leaving it up to the players should a big decision arise.

“Whatever they choose,” he replied when asked about their prospective decision. “You can never predict people’s individual course in their lives.

I saw Neil Farrugia play last night [for UCD] and he was exceptional, he was the best player on the park against Cork City. Liam is a different player, they’ve been on trial at Man City, but I’m sure there are other clubs watching them and I’m sure they’re enjoying their football at UCD as well. They’re in on merit I feel.

“Neil obviously scored [for Ireland U21s] in the last qualifying game against Luxembourg. Liam didn’t play that game, but showed a lot in training and showed that he’s going to be a good player.

“But it is a very competitive area for us, centre-half. It is the area that we have the most players available for selection who are playing at a good level. Liam, probably because he is left-footed and very much a technical, ball-playing defender gives us something different. It gives us balance in the squad.”

Farrugia and Scales are not the only UCD players in the squad for the upcoming Toulon Tournament, with goalkeeper Conor Kearns also selected. In total, there seven players from the League of Ireland included, with potential for domestic games to be postponed as a result.

“I’ve talked to managers and I respect everyone’s position and you don’t want the league interrupted too much, you have to respect that — I think for supporters, managers and players. But, on one side of it, there’s been a criticism over a few decades about players not getting an opportunity, and now you have players playing in a really prestigious tournament.

We don’t qualify for U21 European Championships, we’ve never qualified in our history, so it’s a proper opportunity to play in a prestigious U21 international tournament. Mexico won the London Olympics and this is their Olympic squad [nine years on]. They’re a ’97 age group, bearing in mind the likes of Adam Idah is 2001. We’ve looked at their squad and the Chinese squad as well and they’re the 97 age group. Next season, they’ll play in the Olympics in Tokyo if they qualify, which is U23.

“It’s very strong squads from Mexico and China. Bahrain are something of an unknown quantity, which we’ll have to try to find more about. I’m sure we’re in the process of doing that. Likewise they want to qualify for the Olympics from their section. We’re really an U20 team. We don’t really become an U21 team until September until the new qualifying campaign [recommences]. Some of the players will be playing two years, some of them four years ahead of their age group. But that’s a good opportunity, because we want players to step up to the senior team, so we want to see how they step up against men and how they cope with intensity levels that are up from the youth international teams. That’s the hope. It opens our eyes and we’ll see how people do.”

Kenny, whose squad was confirmed today, confirmed that Jake Doyle-Hayes (groin), Michael Obafemi (hamstring), Troy Parrott (ankle) and Gavin Bazunu (muscle behind the knee) had all been ruled out through injury.

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Paul Fennessy

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