By Ryan Kelly
Noel King named his Ireland under-21 squad last Wednesday for the upcoming friendly encounter against Denmark and the Uefa European Under-21 Championship qualifying Group Seven game against Italy.
The Denmark clash takes place at Tallaght Stadium on May 28 and the vital qualifier against the Italians is scheduled for June 4 at Sligo Rovers' Showgrounds.
“We’ve assembled a good squad that we will be looking to build on our previous performances," said King. "At this stage of the season some players have not played for a couple of weeks so the Denmark game will be extremely important.
“Italy are a very well-prepared side that recently beat Scotland 4-1 in a warm-up game so everything is geared towards being prepared for that fixture.”
King is without captain Rob Kiernan, who is being treated for an injury, but will included U19 graduates Samir Carruthers and Sean Murray once they complete duty with Paul Doolin's side.
Elsewhere, John Egan and Eunan O'Kane have also been drafted in.
|Aaron McCAREY - Wolves
Monaghan native Aaron McCarey made the step up to U21 level following a string of impressive performances for Paul Doolin's Ireland side in the 2011 European Under-19 Championship.
An alumnus of League of Ireland side Monaghan United, McCarey has featured predominantly for Wolves reserves, but the 20-year-old custodian has also had a short loan spell with non-league Telford.
|Ian McLOUGHLIN - MK Dons
Twenty-year-old Dubliner Ian McLoughlin has been the first-choice goalkeeper for the U21s since Noel King took the reins from Don Givens.
The towering shot-stopper began his professional career at Ipswich under the tutelage of Roy Keane, but following a couple of short loan spells in the lower divisions, McLoughlin opted to sign for MK Dons in 2011.
|Niall CANAVAN - Scunthorpe United
England-born Niall Canavan declared for Ireland in 2011 and the Scunthorpe defender has since made four appearances for the U21s.
However, the burly centre half has found his opportunities with the Iron extremely limited.
Has spent time on loan at Shrewsbury Town.
|Mark CONNOLLY - Unattached
A centre back by trade, the Monaghan native can also play at right back or in midfield. The 20-year-old has captained Bolton's reserves and had a spell with Macclesfield Town earlier in the season.
He has been favoured by Noel King at right back. Recently released by the Trotters after relegation.
|Greg CUNNINGHAM - Manchester City
Galway man Cunningham returned to action from his horrendous leg-break to secure a starting spot in Noel King's U21 team in the 4-1 away victory over Liechtenstein.
The pacy left back has three senior caps for Ireland to his name and started 25 games for Championship side Nottingham Forest on loan last season.
|Shane DUFFY - Everton
Standing at 6'4, Everton's Shane Duffy is a commanding figure at centre back.
Having returned from serious injury, the Derry man featured for the Toffees' first team last season alongside World Cup finalist Johnny Heitinga.
His performances earned him a call up to the Ireland senior team in February.
|John EGAN - Sunderland
Nineteen-year-old Cork native John Egan has been a regular feature in Ireland youth squads, captaining Paul Doolin's U19 team to the semi-finals of the 2011 European Under-19 Championship.
The Sunderland defender had two loan spells last season, with Crystal Palace and Sheffield United, and this marks his first U21 call up.
Son of late Kerry GAA legend John Egan.
|Lanre OYEBANJO - York City
York City's Oyebanjo is a fast and strong defender who plays predominantly at right back.
The London-born 22-year-old played for non-league Histon before signing for recently-promoted League Two side York City.
He has been a regular for Ireland at U19 and U21 level.
|Samir CARRUTHERS - Aston Villa
Having made his senior debut for the Villans as a late substitute against Liverpool in April, 19-year-old winger Carruthers has been rewarded with his first U21 call up for Ireland.
Highly regarded at Villa Park and in the Ireland set-up, Carruthers will join up with the rest of the squad after he takes part in the under-19 qualifiers.
|Conor CLIFFORD - Chelsea
An attacking midfielder in the mould of Frank Lampard, Dublin-born Clifford has been a constant presence in various Irish underage squads.
Yet to make the breakthrough at Stamford Bridge, the 20-year-old has had loan spells at Plymouth Argyle, Notts County and Yeovil Town.
In August 2011 his progress was rewarded with a senior call up from Giovanni Trapattoni.
|Jeff HENDRICK - Derby County
The 20-year-old is a regular starter for Championship side Derby County.
A Dublin-born midfielder, Hendrick made the step up to U21 level following his tireless displays for Paul Doolin's team at the 2011 Under-19 European Championship.
He made his debut in the 1-0 away loss to Turkey.
|Conor HOURIHANE - Plymouth Argyle
Twenty-one-year-old Corkonian Hourihane is a former Sunderland and Ipswich Town youth team player and enjoyed a decent season with League Two side Plymouth Argyle.
He will be hoping to cement his place in the starting XI in the friendly against Denmark at Tallaght.
|Sean MURRAY - Watford
The youngest member of the squad, Watford attacking midfielder Sean Murray was a revelation for the Championship outfit last season, scoring seven goals in 18 appearances.
The talented 18-year-old won Watford's Young Player of the Season award this year and will join up with Noel King's squad when he completes his duties with Paul Doolin's U19s.
|Eunan O'KANE - Torquay United
Derry-born attacking midfielder Eunan O'Kane was recently named in the League Two Team of the Year.
The former Everton and Coleraine youth previously played for Northern Ireland, but declared for the Republic in the summer of 2011.
|Richie TOWELL - Hibs (loan from Celtic)
Diminutive Dubliner Richie Towell is a versatile player, featuring both in midfield and right back for Ireland at U19 and U21 level.
A tenacious defensive midfielder, he has enjoyed two loan spells at Hibernian.
|Aidan WHITE - Leeds United
Despite having played underage for England, White declared for Ireland in 2011 and has since been a regular on the wing for Noel King's U21s.
White is a tricky winger with several seasons of competitive football behind him.
|Robert BRADY - Manchester United
A real star in the making. The Dubliner overcame early injury concerns at Manchester United to explode onto the scene at U21 level, putting in several man-of-the-match performances.
Brady is a hard-working and tricky attacker, who is equally adept in the air as he is with the ball at his feet. Spent last season on loan at Hull City.
|James COLLINS - Shrewsbury Town
Former Aston Villa youth Collins is the U21s' leading goal scorer in qualification.
A strapping forward, the Shrewsbury Town striker scored 17 goals for his club in all competitions last season.
|Aaron DORAN - Inverness CT
Winger-cum-forward Aaron Doran has been in and out of recent U21 squads, where he has featured mainly as a striker.
The 20-year-old began his career at Blackburn Rovers but signed for Scottlish Premier League side Inverness Caledonian Thistle in 2011, where he has played mostly as a right winger.
|Rhys MURPHY - Arsenal
A former England youth international, 21-year-old striker Rhys Murphy declared for Ireland in the summer of 2011 and scored on his debut for the Young Boys in Green, bagging the winner in a qualifier against Hungary.
A product of the prestigious Arsenal youth academy, Murphy recently had a loan spell with Preston North End.
Injured and absent:
|Rob KIERNAN - Wigan Athletic
Watford-born Kiernan has been ever-present at centre back for Noel King's U21s, wearing the captain's armband in all but one game of his tenure.
A composed defender, Kiernan had his loan spell at Accrington Stanley cut short due to an ankle injury. Highly rated by Wigan manager Roberto Martinez.