Jack Keaney of Donegal Town and Sligo Rovers has been included by Republic of Ireland Under 18 Head Coach Jim Crawford in his Irish U-18 squad for the forthcoming Slovakia Cup tournament.
Keaney has been making great progress with Sligo Rovers and was part of the team which defeated Finn Harps in Finn Park on Monday night last in the EA Sports Cup.
The squad also includes goalkeeper Edward McGinty. The Sligo Rovers man, who lives in Ballyshannon, was in Declan McIntyre's first team squad for last Monday night's cup game against Harps. His dad is originally from Donegal town.
Ireland will be participating in an eight-team tournament and have been grouped with Czech Republic, Russia and Turkey with a classification game also involved.
Ireland U19 boss Tom Mohan used several players still eligible for the U18s in the UEFA U19 European Championship Elite Qualifying Round last month but Crawford was not in a position to call up the majority of those players for this tournament.
Nevertheless, the Irish coach is confident that the squad which travels to Slovakia can give a good account of themselves and show that they can be options for Mohan at U19 level next season.
"I see this as a tournament that will give an opportunity to those players who haven’t been involved before to show myself and Tom Mohan where they’re at presently," said Crawford.
"It's unfortunate that we couldn't bring the likes of Declan Rice, Canice Carroll, Jayson Molumby and Tyreke Wilson who were involved at the U19 Elite but it's also a great satisfaction for them to have progressed to that level.
"I was also considering maybe promoting some of the U17s but its great for them and Colin O’Brien that they've qualifed for the EURO finals so we can have no complaints about not having access to those players.
"Having said that, this is a great chance for the likes of Shola Ayoola, Michael Obafemi, Callum Nicell and Callum Mollett to play for Ireland and make an impression upon Tom Mohan, who will be at the tournament also.
"It is also pleasing that we've a few more home-based players involved including Alec Byrne, Dean Dillon, James McSweeney and Jack Keaney who’ve been playing very well at their clubs recently to represent themselves, their clubs and the league at this tournament."
Given the tight timeframe that the tournament will be taking place in and the demanding level of their opponents, Crawford feels that the players will get a strong opportunity to make an impression.
"We’ll see if these players are up to international level but it’s also an opportunity for themselves as players to learn a lot and use this as a barometer of where they’re at," added Crawford.
"Then they should see if they can bring that back to their clubs and make further progres as a player and help their overall development.
"The quality of the opposition will be very high. We’ve done our research on them and we know that the Czech Republic, Russia and Turkey are all excellent sides at this age group."
The Ireland U18s drew 0-0 with the Netherlands and lost 3-2 to Germany in a cracking game last November so Crawford is looking for a progression from the squad in the forthcoming tournament.
"You’re always looking to step on with the performances and what you’ve learned from the previous trip when we did some good things when playing the likes of Netherlands and Germany," said Crawford.
"What was more rewarding was Dan McKenna, Mark Travers, Stephen Mallon and Canice Carroll all got the opportunity to then earn promotion to the U19s as Tom Mohan had watched them over there.
"We will be looking for the players to make a similar impression upon him this time around and earn a slot for his squad in the next games for the U19s."
Republic of Ireland U18 Squad
Goalkeepers: Mark Travers (Bournemouth), Edward McGinty (Sligo Rovers)
Defenders: Alec Byrne (Cork City), Aaron O’Driscoll (Southampton), Warren O’Hora (Bohemians), James McSweeney (Cobh Ramblers), Rian O’Sullivan (Brighton & Hove Albion), Callum Mollett (Walsall)
Midfielders: Anthony Scully (West Ham United), Dan McKenna (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Jack Keaney (Sligo Rovers), Callum Nicell (Leeds United), Stephen Mallon (Sheffield United)
Forwards: Aidan Keena (St Patrick's Athletic), Kian Flanagan (Crystal Palace), Dean Dillon (Shamrock Rovers), Michael Obafemi (Southampton), Thomas Byrne (Drogheda United), Shola Ayoola (Stoke City)
Monday, April 24: Czech Republic v Republic of Ireland, Modranka (KO 14:00)
Tuesday, April 25: Republic of Ireland v Russia, Dunajska Luzna (KO 10:00)
Thursday, April 27: Republic of Ireland v Turkey, Dunajska Luzna (KO 10:00)
Friday, April 28: Classification match, TBC