CORK CITY goalkeeper David Harrington was a little bit surprised to be included in the current U21 Republic of Ireland squad.
Jim Crawford’s side take on Italy tonight knowing that victory against the Azzurri would see Ireland qualify automatically for the 2023 European U21 Championship and is impressed with the unity of the squad.
“The club received an e-mail before the Wexford game. I remember talking to Healers [Colin Healy] and Nults [Mark McNulty] and they were telling me to just go out and perform as I had been and that’s all I could do to make the final squad.
"I was just thought to myself that I had two games against Wexford and Galway to impress. As it turns out, I found out the day before the Galway game, and it was something I wasn’t expecting but obviously was over the moon to hear I was in the final squad.
"My parents were delighted when I told them, my dad in particular because of his history in the game. When I joined up with the squad, I know a few lads from playing with the U20s earlier, but in fairness the rest of the lads have been very welcoming.
"There is no player here who thinks he is better than anyone else. Everyone works so hard for one another.
“After the Montenegro game, we were given three days off. I think everyone just went home for a few days. I went back to Cork and then joined up with the team again on Friday and we flew out to Italy on Sunday.
"For the first few days, everyone was in a room by themselves but since coming back I’ve been sharing a room with Brian Maher which is good because he is a top keeper and you can learn a lot even off the football pitch.
"Obviously when we joined up again we knew that we were at least guaranteed a play-off position but rather than celebrating that, we were talking about making sure we go and top the group.
“It’s been good the media coverage the team does receive and the players recognise that, but I think we have earned that in our results and performances and hopefully we can go finish the job against Italy.”
Harrington has been in top form with his club this season, helping City to the top of the First Division table.
“We probably do analysis a lot more with Ireland but then again we have more time for that.
"With goalkeepers, we analyse how the opposition team score most of their goals and then work on that in training. So for example if a team scores a lot of their goals from outside of the penalty area, then we will work on stopping shots from outside the box.
“Since I’ve come, the advice given to me has been to keep working on my strengths. So I’ve been told to keep coming for crosses and to keep trying diagonal balls. Yes, I do work on areas that need strengthening but mainly have been told to keep doing what has got me the call-up in the first place.”