Ronan Boyce 'honoured' to be a part of Ireland U21s Euro campaign which continues in Montenegro
RONAN BOYCE says it’s ‘an honour’ to be involved with the Ireland U21 squad who hope to continue their unbeaten start to the 2023 UEFA European Championship qualifying campaign in Montenegro on Tuesday afternoon (Kick-off 4.30p.m. Irish time).
The 20 year-old Ramelton lad was an unused substitute in Friday night’s televised 2-0 victory over Luxembourg in Tallaght Stadium, a result which leaves Jim Crawford’s troops in a fantastic position in Group F, three points behind leaders Sweden and two behind second placed Italy who meet in Monza on Tuesday.
Boyce, who flew out to Podgorica with the squad at the weekend, hopes to play some part in the crunch clash but, whether or not he makes an appearance, he’s just delighted to be part of the experience and appreciates getting the recognition his club form richly deserves.
“Hopefully I get a chance to be involved in the game,” said the Donegal man. “I’m just delighted to be a part of the squad. It’s a real honour for me to represent my country. Knowing Jim keeps an eye on the League of Ireland games and is prepared to give you your chance if you’re playing well also gives you confidence and motivates you to keep going.”
His emergence as a key player in Ruaidhri Higgins Derry team this season certainly caught the eye of Crawford as he netted six times from predominantly a right wing-back position including two significant winning strikes against Sligo Rovers at the Showgrounds and Waterford at the RSC.
He’s in the Ireland U21 squad on merit, alongside some top talent plying their trade in England and he’s thriving on the experience.
“It’s a top class team with some excellent players,” stated Boyce. “My aim is to keep my place in the squad for the whole campaign and if I can keep showing good form at club level then hopefully that’s the case. It’s a great experience to be in and around the squad. That will only help boost my confidence.”
Confidence is something Boyce isn’t short on and he insists he’ll be ready to do a job should he get the call this afternoon against Montenegro. Knowing victory will keep Ireland in contention ahead of the visit of the Italians to Tallaght on November 12th is a big incentive for the Boys in Green.
“We’ve started really well and it’s about keeping that momentum going,” he continued. “Montenegro will be a really good side. All these international teams are good teams and this will be no different. We’re expecting a tough game but hopefully we can keep the run going and be in a good position by the time we play Italy.”
Of course Ireland boss, Crawford was forced to draw up a squad comprising of only home-based players which also initially included Derry midfielder Evan McLaughlin in the event that seven UK and Germany-based players were not allowed to travel due to quarantine protocols. Montenegro was later removed from the UK’s red list but Boyce insists the confusion didn’t derail the squad and they remained totally focussed on the double header.
“The players have all been focussing on the Luxembourg game so we haven’t been thinking about the situation with travelling to Montenegro. We haven’t really had time to think about all that.”
His Derry teammate, McLaughlin, also received recognition having been named in that home-based squad ahead of the Luxembourg match and Boyce believes it’s only the start for the midfielder.
“Evan has been a breath of fresh air since he’s come into the squad and he’s got the quality too so I wasn’t surprised that he was named in the squad. I suppose we all have to be confident in our own ability because if you don’t believe in yourself no one else will. It’s been working out well so far and hopefully that continues.”
While all eyes are on today's Euro qualifier with Ireland, Boyce is also looking forward to the final run-in with Derry City when the Brandywell club's quest for European football continues against second placed St Pat's at home on Friday night. With just seven games remaining and European football a real possibility, Boyce is determined to finish the season on a high.
"These are the games I want to be involved in and travelling to different places to play football. I got a taste of playing in Europe under Decky Devine last year but hopefully we can qualify for Europe next year.
"There's seven massive games coming up starting with St Pat's on Friday night and that's going to be a tough game. Pats are flying high at the minute but we'll be up for it."