By Jamie Moore
Ex Belvo boy & now Wolverhampton Wanderers midfielder Daniel McKenna is in the Ireland U18 squad for the Slovakia Cup next week. Jim Crawford's Boys In Green will face Czech Republic, Russia & Turkey.
Dano moved to Wolves from Belvo two years ago having played at Belvo since our academy.
He's been in every single Ireland squad in his age group since U15 and has captained the team at U15, U16 U17 and U18,
The Slovakia Cup is in an eight-team tournament with a classification game at the end against the team that finishes in the same place in the other group.
The Ireland Head 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 Tom Mohan at U19 level next season.
Crawford has been speaking to FAI.IE
"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."
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."
"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