New blood needed for young Irish

Northern Ireland Under-21 boss Stephen Robinson is confident he can recruit more players as his side prepare to face Denmark U21s in Aalborg.

Last Updated: 09/09/12 at 16:40

Northern Ireland U21s: Lost to Macedonia on Friday

Northern Ireland U21s: Lost to Macedonia on Friday

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Robinson believes he can help persuade other youngsters to follow Shane McEleney's lead and commit to the Irish Football Association.

Northern Ireland have lost a handful of promising young players to the Republic of Ireland in recent years, despite already capping them at age-group levels, with James McClean the most high profile after last year's Twitter spat with fans.

But Robinson's selection of former Republic Under-21 Shane McEleney for last month's friendly against Hungary, a match that saw the Derry man score on debut, hinted at an attempt to turn the tide.

And Robinson, whose side travel to take on Denmark U21s in a Euro 2013 qualifier (kick-off 6pm BST), is confident of convincing other players to take the same route.

"We don't have a lot of players, so we are constantly on the lookout back home and in England as well," he said.

"I'm heavily involved in it. McEleney came with us and scored (against Hungary) and he's decided he wants to make a career with Northern Ireland. Hopefully there are three or four more in the pipeline who will do exactly the same thing.

"We need to make the boys want to be part of things. We can offer them football at a level that perhaps they are not going to play otherwise. Maybe they have been overlooked before and we need to change that.

"A lot of work has been done since I took over in February, but it's a big decision in terms of your international career."

Robinson, who took over from Steve Beaglehole when qualification was already impossible, is hoping for a first win in charge of the side but not unduly confident.

"Getting results at Under-21 level is tough when we have seven (eligible players) away with the full squad," he admitted.

"We've had to throw four of five of the younger ones in but it's a difficult task and we know we are up against it.

"We're judged a lot on results but a lot of work goes unseen because, truly, the picture is about what we can do for the full squad.

"We're under no illusions about the task ahead of us against Denmark."

Robinson will be forced to shuffle his pack again after Friday's 3-1 defeat to Macedonia, with Matthew Lund and Conor McLaughlin both suspended and Andrew Mitchell injured.

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Fixtures

Friday, 05 September 2014
19:30
Austria U21 v Bosnia U21  
Monday, 08 September 2014
15:00
Estonia U21 v Slovenia U21  
17:00
Bosnia U21 v Hungary U21  
Tuesday, 09 September 2014
16:00
Israel U21 v Macedonia U21  
17:00
Portugal U21 v Azerbaijan U21  
18:00
Spain U21 v Austria U21  

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