Kenny backs Crawford in his bid for Euro U21 C’ship qualification

By Stephen Leonard

REPUBLIC of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny insists that fellow Tallaght man Jim Crawford has earned the opportunity to lead the nation’s Under 21s to qualification for the European Championship Finals for the first time ever.

Taking up this particular baton from Kenny, who managed the team to top spot in Group One with three games remaining against Italy, Iceland and Luxembourg, Crawford is now looking to see the team through the business end of the campaign and into next year’s Finals tournament in Hungary and Slovenia.

Irl V Italy U 21 09 compressor

Stephen Kenny insists fellow Tallaght man Jim Crawford has earned the right to lead the Republic of Ireland Under 21s in their bid for European Championship qualification

Kenny, who invited Crawford on to his management team when he took over the Under 21s, told The Echo “It was a big decision for him [Crawford] because he had to give up being manager of the [Ireland] Under 18 team in his own right and to come in as part of a team with myself and Keith Andrews. So that was big commitment for him. That was a brave move.

“He's very, very diligent, Jim. He's unbelievably hard working.

 

He's a tutor on the coach education courses. He's the tutor on the Pro License and A License.

“He's very well organised. I constantly learn all the time from all the people I work with. One of the things about Jim is that has incredible integrity.

“For someone who is 13 years with the FAI, who has filled a lot of roles and is very selfless and sometimes just gone under the radar, because he hasn't sought the limelight, you shouldn't underestimate the terrific work he has done in his career.

“And I think it's only right that he gets the opportunity to manage the Under 21 international team. He's earned that through a body of work over a number of years” he pointed out.

Kenny had great respect for Crawford when he came across him when managing in the League of Ireland.

“I was managing Bohemians and Jim was a player. In 2003, it was a big game- Bohs and Shels to win the league and Bohemians won it, and Jim was playing in that in Tolka Park, a full house.

“Shels went on to win three leagues in that period after that. Jim had a long association with Shelbourne and did very well. He was a very successful, hard working midfield player.

“He went to work with the FAI for a long time. He was Under 18 manager with the international team and when I got the job with the Under 21 international team, I asked him to come in and assist me” he recalled.

Now taking the hot seat with the Ireland Under 21s, Crawford is relishing the new challenge saying “It is an exciting time, I'm looking forward to it. It's the business end [of the campaign]. We've got three unbelievably tough games coming up.

“If we could go to Italy, beat Italy, have that game against Iceland and have a fantastic winning result there, we're definitely in the driving seat to qualify automatically for the European Finals” he said.

Crawford will get the opportunity to see his side in action before the resumption of the Euro quest when they face Slovenia away in a friendly on September 7.

Ireland will then meet Italy in a top-of-the-table clash on October 13 before welcoming Iceland to Tallaght on November 12 and facing Luxembourg away the following Tuesday.

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