King: We must prove we're better
Noel King has challenged his Republic of Ireland Under-21 players to revel in their unaccustomed role as favourites as they launch their European Championship qualifying campaign against Andorra.
Ireland kick off Group 2 in Waterford RSC on Thursday evening knowing they will face bigger tests on the road to the 2017 finals, but equally aware they cannot afford to pass up an opportunity to make a statement.
King said: "It's a different pressure than we sometimes can find at this level because we are favourites. We are favourites for a reason and we have to justify that. We have to take that to the pitch.
"We've looked at Andorra a couple of games - they'll be a threat on the counter. They'll be passionate and hard-working, so we'll have to match that with our own intensity and hopefully prove that we have the better players and go on and win the match."
The Republic will eventually also have to contend with Italy, Serbia, Slovenia and Lithuania if they are to make it to Poland.
King's men will hope to improve on their showing in the last campaign, which saw them finish fourth in a five-strong group behind Germany, Romania and Montenegro having won just two of their eight games, both against minnows the Faroe Islands.
West Ham's former Waterford striker Sean Maguire, who is currently on loan at Accrington Stanley, has been drafted into the squad as a replacement for the injured Matt Hamilton, while King has concerns over Jack Connors and Shamir Goodwin.