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King wants a lift

Ireland Under-21s boss Noel King is hoping to take a feelgood factor into Thursday's night's opening Euro 2013 qualifier.

Three weeks ago, Ireland came from behind to defeat Austria 2-1 in a friendly at the Showgrounds in Sligo, and King is hoping to see the same resilience and determination when his side returns to the same venue.

The Republic launch a double-header with a home game against Hungary before heading for Turkey on Tuesday, and there is an air of confidence about the squad with senior international James McCarthy included.

King said: "I feel we have got a strong squad here, including a senior international, and with a bit of luck and good preparation, we can get a decent performance and result against Hungary.

"Still, Hungary will be a stiff test for us. They have a great football tradition and play very direct with a big centre-forward. They could give us problems. From our perspective, the manner of the victory against Austria last month, when we came back from a goal behind, said a lot about the character within the group.

"Nothing will be decided by the outcome of this game, given it's only our first match, but it would be a great start to put some points on the board this early."

With the senior team preparing for Euro 2012 qualifiers against Slovakia and Russia with every chance of reaching the finals, and the Under-19s having made the semi-finals of their European Championships this summer, there is a growing sense of optimism about the nation's football.

King said: "The Under-19s did well at the European Championships in the summer and hopefully we can continue that and get a buzz going.

"There is no extra pressure on us, apart from the pressure we put on ourselves, and I know from dealing with these players that they want to do something special in the group."

King has been forced to make one change to the squad with Plymouth's Conor Hourihane having been called up to replace Crystal Palace's Sean Scannell, who has been ruled out with an ankle injury.


From Belfast Telegraph