David Wilson reporting for the Sean McCaffrey foundation.
The games have been coming thick and fast over the past few weeks for Oisin McEntee. Fresh after captaining his country at under-19 level, the Newcastle United youngster has featured regularly for the clubs’ under-23 side.
Derby games against Middlesbrough and Sunderland preceded by a tough away game at West Brom has allowed McEntee the opportunity to test himself against experienced pro’s such as Hal Robson-Kanu a Welsh international with over 40 senior caps and Chris Brunt a former Northern Ireland international with 65 caps and a wealth of Premier League experience.
To some, it would be a daunting task, however the centre-half has taken it in his stride performing well as he takes his first steps into senior football. Netting a stoppage-time equaliser against Middlesbrough was testament to the strides forward being made by the Shercock native.
A clean sheet and a solid performance in a derby game away to eternal rivals Sunderland has seen McEntee become a fixture in the reserve side as the under-19 international looks to force his way into the reckoning for the first team or a possible loan move to gain valuable first team experience.
Next on the agenda is an important elite qualifying phase for the under-19 international side. The squad will play three games in Austria as they embark on their first step in qualification for the under-19 European Championships that will take place in Northern Ireland next year.
Switzerland and Austria will provide stiff opposition for this year’s semi-finalists, while Ireland should take care of minnows Gibraltar. Both central European nations in Switzerland and Austria have considerable pedigree at this level as Tom Mohan’s men have been drawn in one of the more difficult groups.
McEntee’s experience of playing in a major tournament last year will be crucial. The partnership with Arsenal defender Mark McGuinness blossomed over the course of the competition in the summer, leading to comparisons being made to senior international defenders Shane Duffy and John O’Shea.
The future is bright for the former Patrician High School student. A run of games for club and country has meant that McEntee has became more accustomed to the rigours of the professional game. Ireland will need all his experience of playing top international sides to overcome a difficult qualifying group and set them on their way to another major tournament next summer.