Jim Crawford is loving Tallaght atmosphere as his side set to face Israel in crunch Euro 2023 play-off… – The Irish Sun

Posted By on September 18, 2022

JIM CRAWFORD is determined it wont be so much Talmud as Tallaght mood when Ireland Under-21s host Israel in the Euro 2023 play-off first leg on Friday.

The Jobstown native wont be short of support as the Boys in Green welcome their Israeli counterparts to Tallaght Stadium on Friday night.

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49-year-old Crawford, who played in the Premier League with Newcastle United before enjoying a decorated League of Ireland career with Shelbourne, grew up within a mile or so of the venue.

His family will be among the - hopefully - 8,000 crowd in attendance in Dublin 24 as Ireland look to make history by qualifying for a first-ever Under-21 European Championships.

Crawford is in good company with senior mens boss Stephen Kenny, womens captain Katie McCabe and mens record scorer and caps-holder Robbie Keane from the area.

Fellow Jobstown man Stephen Bradley is manager at Shamrock Rovers - where Crawford was once caretaker boss - as the West Dublin suburb flexes its muscles on the world stage.

And Crawford revealed to SunSport his pride at getting the chance to realise his managerial dreams in front of his hometown support.

He said: It's a proud moment. When I first took over the team and took the boys to Tallaght Stadium it was proud.

Stephen Kenny is from Tallaght as well. You've got Stephen Bradley from Jobstown, Vinny Perth from Killinarden. There's a lot of managers around from Tallaght.

I don't know if it's the water there but it is proud. I'll have a fair bit of family that will be at the game too.

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Its an opportunity thats been a long time coming for Crawford. He was Ireland Under-18s manager for three years before becoming Kennys Under-21 assistant in 2018.

He stepped up to the main job in 2021 after Kenny took over from Mick McCarthy and guided the side through a difficult campaign with home and away wins over Sweden.

Crawford added: I love the whole build-up, getting training sessions right. I know for a fact that it'd take me longer preparing a training session plan than what it is to do it physically.

A lot of detail has gone into it. You're looking at players and you're just hoping you don't pick up any injuries.

I'm looking forward to the game. It's a privilege to be involved in the game and hopefully we get the right result on the Friday. Backed by a packed stadium - that's what we need.

One interesting subplot ahead of the Israeli clash is a first call-up for English-born attacking midfielder Finn Azaz, who is on loan at Plymouth Argyle from Aston Villa.

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The goalscoring midfielder qualifies for Ireland through his Cork-born grandparents - but it also eligible for Israel through his ancestry.

Crawford said: It was a funny one. When I was having the conversation with him he was laughing, saying, 'Of all games to come in, it's against Israel!'

He's a talented player, he's got great energy, he can see passes, score goals, and he's an exciting player.

I seen his game the other night against Oxford and he was outstanding. He's playing an attacking role with Plymouth - and they're a good team, Plymouth.

I seen them play against Derby and when he came on he made a huge difference and they actually went on and beat Derby 3-2.

With Cardiff City left-full Joel Bagan ruled out with a tight hamstring, theres a chance for Shamrock Rovers full-back Andy Lyons - continuing the Tallaght theme - to make his case.

The Naas man will depart for Championship side Blackpool in the winter after the Lancashire side concluded a deal in the region of 400,000 with the Hoops.

And Crawford has backed Lyons - who is right-footed but has excelled on the opposite side for Rovers this year - to make an impact as he steps up to the English second tier.

He said: It opens the door for him, but it's something that in the last window we were aware of.

Even approaching the last window, he was doing very well and since then he's picked up player of the month.

He's scored nine goals this season and he's had numerous assists. He's in a great place coming into the camp.

He's a talented player, he really is, and he's hard-working. He's come into our camps at times and he wasn't playing, but what he did do, and what I do admire, is he got on with it.

He kept his head down and worked hard in training. There was no sulking and that, to me, underlines his character.

When he goes back to Shamrock Rovers, he plays left wing-back. I was curious to see how he was going to play there, and in fairness to him he's been excellent in that position.

It'll be a step up, no doubt about it. I don't know too much about Blackpool, but it'll be a step up for Andy.

It's the volume of games. You're playing Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday. It's a real test of your physical nature, can you keep playing in those games?

Because the intensity of the Championship is different from the intensity in those Europa League Conference games.

But can Andy do it? Yeah, I think he can. He's fit, he's desperate to learn and he's a talent.

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Jim Crawford is loving Tallaght atmosphere as his side set to face Israel in crunch Euro 2023 play-off... - The Irish Sun

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