Manager Don Givens, whose side drew 2-2 with Portugal and beat Lithuania 3-0 in their last two games, will first face Germany in another friendly at Turner’s Cross, Cork, on February 10.
Givens says his skipper, Waterford man Eddie Nolan, should benefit from his permanent move to Championship club Preston North End for a “significant six-figure incentive-based” transfer fee earlier this month. The former Bohs’ schoolboys star has signed a contract with the Lilywhites until the summer of 2012 after failing to feature for Blackburn since his single first-team appearance for Rovers in the UEFA Cup more than two years ago.
However, the 20-year-old defender “has made significant progress,” Givens says. “For me his best position is centre-half but he has played well for us also at right-back and can fill any of the back four positions.”
Having initially been loaned to Preston last October, after previous spells with Stockport County and Hartlepool, Eddie’s switch from Ewood Park “should give him the opportunity of more first team football,” Givens says. “It is important at this stage of his career that he pins down a position for himself in the Preston team.”
Nolan, who has also been capped at ‘B’ level, joins fellow Irishmen Stephen Elliot and Sean St Ledger at Deepdale. Preston manager Alan Irvine reckons “Eddie is a player we are hoping is going to turn out to be a really good signing for us in the long term.
“He has an excellent pedigree… He has played in the first team earlier than I anticipated” – including more than half-an-hour at left back against Premier League leaders Liverpool in the FA Cup live on ITV – “and he has done himself no harm whatsoever with his performances.
“It is important we have players who are versatile and adaptable and Eddie comes into that category… I think we are starting to see the talent and the potential he has got,” Irvine added.
North End recently beat league leaders Wolves 3-1 away, and scored a 3-2 win over Burley at the weekend, to keep themselves well in contention for a play-offs spot, and Nolan is convinced his career is on the up. “I am very happy. I have loved my time here and I am looking forward to being here for at least the next three-and-a-half years.”
The draw for the initial qualifying tournament of the 2011 Under 21 Championship will be made in Aarhus, Denmark, the host country for the finals, on February 4.