PREPARATIONS are well on the way for Jim Crawford's Irish U21s in the European Championship qualifying campaign which take place in Dublin in early June.
Cork man Tyreik Wright will be a key player in the squad.
The 20-year-old Ovens native just recently returned to Aston Villa having been out on loan with Colchester. He has made great progress in England while in the green jersey he's delivered some of his best football.
“Life in England is good but could always be better in terms of I want to play in the Premier League, that’s what I desire to do and I know one day it is going to happen,” said Wright.
“I was out on loan this season with Colchester. I went back to Aston Villa when the season ended.
"I enjoyed life at Colchester to some degree, I didn’t get as much game time as I wanted but it’s all about experience at this age. I went on loan to Colchester on deadline day, it was literally a last-minute move as I had somewhere else lined up to go out on loan too but I ended up choosing Colchester."
He has been on loan on two other occasions, at Salford and Walsall.
“My views about going out on loan are, any chance you get at a young age to go on loan take it with both hands. You need to gain the experience as young as possible because the later you leave it, the further you’re behind everyone else."
He's had two seasons in League Two.
"My first loan was at Walsall at the end of '20-'21 season and I loved it there. The start of the season I was at Salford and if I’m honest with you, I didn’t enjoy one minute when I was there.
I then finished off the season at Colchester, was in and out the team a lot but was given more of a chance there than Salford.”
Back at home in Cork at the moment, Wright is preparing and looking forward to the upcoming International campaign.
“To be honest I don’t get home as much as I used to, I’m home now for the first time in two years and it’s great. It’s the longest period of time that I’ve been away from home and if I’m honest I miss my family a lot more than the actual place itself."
They've got three international games coming up against Bosnia on June 3, Montenegro on June 6 and the final game against Italy on June 14.
"Our first two games are at Tallaght Stadium, the final game against Italy is away. I feel like I’ve played a big role already in this season’s campaign and hope to carry it on in the upcoming games.
"My best football this season has been played with Ireland so I’ll be looking to carry my form on with three massive games ahead."
Jake O'Brien is one of the key performers in the Ireland squad as well. The Youghal native and former Cork City defender had a very impressive season on loan at Swindon Town, who made the League Two playoffs.
“We’ve got a great group of lads in the Ireland U21s, there’s something special about this group. Everyone’s close to each other, everyone sets high standards for each other because we all know what we’re capable of achieving with this group. We all want to make history and go to the European Finals next year.
"The management is top class, it feels like a family every time I go there we’re all that close to each other. If you’re not having the best of games or days even when you’re away with the team, you know that the players and management will get you through it. That’s how close everyone is and I think everyone that has watched our games can see that."
They have to make the most of their time together, given the players are drawn from a variety of clubs and backgrounds.
“We only get to train together when we have games coming up really, other than that we’re training and playing games with our clubs.
International games involve a lot of tactics to be brought from the training pitch in such a small amount of time, a lot of meetings, watching clips on the opposition, players you’re going to come up against in your position, set pieces and so on.
"The longest I think I’ve been away from club football this season is two weeks. It all depends how many games you have in the international window. But I’m glad to be in this zone now and looking forward to the games.”
With still plenty to play for this year, Wright has many hopes and dreams and will do everything in his power to achieve these.
“My aim for the rest of 2022 is to qualify for the European Finals, break into the Villa first team and if that doesn’t happen go on loan again."
He'd love to follow in the footsteps of the likes of John Egan, Conor Hourihane and Chiedoze Ogbene.
"I would also love a senior call up to the Ireland team. They are my short-term goals as I don’t really do long-term goals. I normally write down six-month goals as it works towards the long-term goals which are to play Premier League football, Champions League, Euros and the World Cup...”