Cliftonville star Donnelly now gunning for Serbia
Tommy Breslin believes that mental toughness is all that stands between his Cliftonville team and the fulfilment of the ‘massive’ potential that the squad possesses.
The Reds have rocked Linfield twice in the last couple of weeks, thanks to the goals of the Carling Premiership’s man-of-the-moment Rory Donnelly.
And such has been the impressive form of the 19-year-old that he has been rewarded with a call-up to the Northern Ireland under-21 squad for next Tuesday’s European Championship qualifier with Serbia at Coleraine.
Donnelly’s goals have put a massive smile on Breslin’s face and the Solitude boss is confident that with young stars like Donnelly, Dermot McVeigh, Joe Gormley and Ciaran Caldwell all showing great promise the club has a bright future.
“The potential at the club is massive, but the players need to mature,” said Breslin.
“They need to mature mentally because I have no doubt that the ability is there; they’ve already shown it.”
Breslin is still learning the ropes as a manager having succeeded Eddie Patterson in April before being given the job on a permanent basis in the summer.
“It’s a tough job. It’s not quite 24/7, but there’s always something going on,” said Breslin.
Donnelly is one of two uncapped players in the under-21 squad — the other being Wolves winger Johnny Gorman, who boasts eight full caps.
Lee Hodson also returns to the under-21 ranks after recent appearances at senior level.
Manager Steve Beaglehole has made a number of changes to his squad for the clash with Serbia, with six of the team that started against Denmark back in September omitted.
On the list of missing players is Rory McKeown, Jonny Breeze, Chris Ramsey, Stuart Dallas, Oliver Norwood and Liam Boyce.
Northern Ireland have four points from four games and lost |1-0 to Serbia in September.
NORTHERN IRELAND UNDER-21 SQUAD: Conor Devlin (Brentford), Wayne Drummond (Ballymena United), Lee Hodson (Watford), Conor McLaughlin (Preston North End), Adam Thompson (Watford — on loan to Brentford), Chris Hegarty (Rangers), Joe Dudgeon (Hull City), James Knowles (Blackburn Rovers), Carl Winchester (Oldham Athletic), Seanan Clucas (Preston North End), Josh Carson (Ipswich Town), Shane Ferguson (Newcastle United), Paddy McLaughlin (York City), Johnny Gorman (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Rory Donnelly (Cliftonville), William Grigg (Walsall), Josh Magennis (Aberdeen), Billy Kee (Burton Albion).