Ireland could play upcoming Under-21s qualifiers in Cork 

Ireland could play upcoming Under-21s qualifiers in Cork 

Republic of Ireland U21 manager Jim Crawford poses for a portrait ahead of his side's international friendly match against Iceland on March 26 in Turner's Cross, Cork. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Republic of Ireland U21 manager Jim Crawford has revealed that there is a real possibility that the national team will play their upcoming European Championship qualifiers in Cork.

The coach was speaking to The Echo about the upcoming friendly against Iceland at Turner’s Cross when he said that the team could be moving from Tallaght Stadium later this year.

Ireland will begin their European Championships qualification campaign this autumn, and they have been drawn into Group A alongside Italy, Norway, Turkey, Latvia, and San Marino.

They are hoping to go one better this time as they were beaten in a penalty shoot-out by Israel in the play-off round after drawing 1-1 on aggregate.

The idea of moving the home games to Cork comes 14 years after the Under-21s last played a game on Leeside. 

Crawford now hopes that if a combination of factors go their way, games in Cork would become a regular occurrence.

“There’s every opportunity that it might,” he said. 

“If everything goes well with regard to prep, if everything goes well with attendances, we think there is a possibility that the campaign might be held in Turner’s Cross, which would be great.

“There’s still a lot of conversations to be had. I’m certainly excited with games being played in Turner’s Cross. 

"I visited there about a month ago and they are refurbishing parts of the stadium.” 

Turner’s Cross has regularly hosted underage internationals over the last fourteen years, with the senior team even visiting for a friendly in 2016.

That was against Belarus and it was their final game before the Euros. 

A sold out crowd welcomed the team that night and they saw Ireland lose 2-1 with Shane Long setting up Stephen Ward to score a late goal into the Shed End.

The Under-17s played a European Championships qualifying tournament in Cork in 2021 and hundreds of people turned up to see them beat Andorra and North Macedonia.

They saw an Irish team featuring a number of emerging stars like Mark O’Mahony, who now plays for Brighton & Hove Albion, and Cathal Heffernan, who went on to sign for Italian giants AC Milan.

This production line has made the Ireland Under-21 coach infatuated with the Rebel County, and he whole heartedly believes it is the ideal environment for young footballers.

“Cork, you have sport in people’s veins in this county,” he said. 

“You have a list of senior international players. That in itself is a real inspiration to the kids, looking at the likes of Adam Idah playing with Norwich and Caoimhin Kelleher playing for Liverpool Football Club. 

"So they have a lot to look up to in County Cork. It’s always been, for me growing up, a hot bed for players. Long may it continue!”

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