Derry City's Ronan Boyce will take Ireland U21 call-up in his stride: says Paddy McCourt

DERRY CITY’S Technical Director Paddy McCourt is confident level-headed Ronan Boyce will take his call-up to the Ireland U21 squad for the Euro qualifiers in his stride and will flourish from the ‘invaluable’ experience.

Friday, 3rd September 2021, 12:07 pm
Updated Friday, 3rd September 2021, 12:08 pm
Ronan Boyce celebrates his goal against Shamrock Rovers at Brandywell earlier this season. Photograph by Kevin Moore.

The 20 year-old defender received a text late on Sunday night to join up with Jim Crawford’s squad for a double-header of away qualifiers against Bosnia-Herzegovina this afternoon and Luxembourg on Tuesday and made a quick dash to Dublin on Monday morning to make the flight to Sarajevo.

McCourt, who has been extremely impressed by the Ramelton man’s progress this season, isn’t surprised by his inclusion in Crawford’s squad and reckons the defender will act as inspiration for the rest of the Brandywell club’s young players who seek international recognition.

Ireland will be looking to get off to a positive start at the FF BH Football Training Centre in Zenica with the game kicking-off at 3.30pm (Irish time) and if called upon, McCourt is confident Boyce will be ready for the challenge.

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“The one thing about Ronan Boyce is that his attitude is exemplary on a daily basis,” said the former Celtic and Northern Ireland star.

“He comes into training, he works hard, he listens. He’s very low maintenance and doesn’t take a lot of management. Everything that’s been thrown at him so far he’s taken it in his stride.”

Boyce is one of five League of Ireland based players involved in the crunch double header alongside Bohemians’ Dawson Devoy, Ross Tierney and Andy Lyons and UCD striker Colm Whelan.

The defender has enjoyed an incredible season for Derry so far making 24 appearances and scoring six goals from primarily a right-back position.

Ex-City boss Declan Devine offered Boyce his first professional contract last January and Ruaidhri Higgins moved quickly to tie him down for longer last May after a string of impressive performances.

“It was Declan (Devine) who gave him his chance at the start of the year and he’s absolutely grabbed it with both hands,” continued McCourt.

“To get the recognition and to get called up to the U21s is an absolute credit to him. Myself and Ruaidhri (Higgins) and all the other coaches at the club just want to help him be the best player he can be.

“Hopefully he has many more years here but I’m sure one day he has aspirations to try and play at a really high level. So all he can do is keep doing what he’s doing now and working hard and keeping his head down.”

McCourt, who won 18 caps for Northern Ireland, believes the experience of training and preparing for tonight’s qualifier in Sarajevo will stand to Boyce who he expects to soak it all up regardless if he gets the nod to line out against the Bosnians.

“The experience will be brilliant for him in terms of his development.”

In fact, McCourt believes Boyce will only get better after getting the chance to play alongside the top young players in the country while away on international duty.

Boyce, who scored a late winner against Sligo Rovers at the Showgrounds two weeks ago has been one of the club’s top performers this season and McCourt is delighted he’s got the recognition he deserves.

“This is just his second season being in and around the first team set-up at Derry,” added McCourt. “He didn’t play a lot last year but having had a wee taste of the U19 Ireland set-up with Tom Mohan, he made his debut as a sub down in Sligo but to be in and around the top young players in the country is invaluable.

“Some of them are at big clubs in England and some are home-based but it will be absolutely brilliant for him. Knowing him as I do, he will take it all in his stride. He’s a keen listener and just wants to learn. So going down there and working with Alan Reynolds and Jim Crawford and getting a bit of advice from them and learning new ways to improve his game will obviously do him no harm at all.”

Commenting before tonight’s game Boyce said he wouldn’t let the experience go to his head. “I would never let my feet get off the ground because I know I have a lot to improve on and that I’m not the finished article by any stretch of the imagination. I can get better and I need to keep improving. I’d love to play in either of the games but I know that might not be realistic. I’ll just try to do my best in training to impress.”

Ireland are joined in Group F by Luxembourg (who they face on Tuesday, September 7), Italy, Sweden and Montenegro and team boss, Crawford is confident his squad are up for the challege.

“Bosnia are well organised with really good individuals but they’re physical. We’ve seen them in numerous games and in some games they’ve pushed on and pressed and other games they’ve dropped off so it will be interesting to see what they do. It will be a great challenge but one the players are up for.”

Boyce isn’t the only Derry youngster lining out for the Boys in Green during this international window as goalkeeper Fintan Doherty and striker Trent Kone Doherty have been called up for Ireland U17 head coach Colin O’Brien’s 20 man squad for two friendlies against Mexico in Turner’s Cross.