+Kieran's summer mission
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Kieran McKenna is getting closer to scratching a near five-year itch as the finals of the UEFA European Under-19 Championship loom in his native Northern Ireland this July.
The fact that the prestigious tournament is being staged in his homeland has been drummed home to the athletic midfielder and his international teammates since the age of 14 and Kieran admits the prospect has not been far from his thoughts since then.
The competition takes place from 18-29 July and will be all the more special as it will mark the Irish FA's 125th anniversary year.
"When I was 14 playing in the Northern Ireland schoolboys the manager kept saying we must earmark this in five years time as it is our age group that will be competing," reported the 18-year-old. "I've been looking forward to it since then.
"It was a great incentive to stay in the squad and, luckily enough, I am the captain and can't wait for it."
With Northern Ireland qualifying for the eight-team tournament as host nation, preparations have been intense for Kieran's age group and there have been many training camps and friendlies played over the last year. Next week he heads home to take part in a four-team competition involving Ukraine, Scotland and Spain, which he feels the organisers will use as something of a dry run.
"It is good quality opposition so it will be a good test for us," he added. "It will be ideal preparation for the organisers ahead of the summer.
"I'm really looking forward to it, it will be good to meet up with the lads again and the Spain match at Windsor Park should be a cracker.
"We've done really well in the friendlies. We got wins against teams like Iceland and Finland and picked up more wins early last autumn. Since then we have played the cream of the teams in Europe like Italy and France - we got narrowly beaten by France in their back yard and got a draw in the Italy game.
"We feel like we're in good form.
"It is the first time the championships have ever been played in the country and everyone is really excited."
On the domestic football front, Kieran is creating a good impression in Clive Allen's reserve team group and the coach singled him out for some special praise following Monday's win over Leicester City at Stevenage.
He appeared to cover almost every blade of grass at Broadhall Way, breaking up opposition attacks, linking up our team's play and making his presence felt in the attacking third of the pitch too. Workrate is something he clearly prides himself in.
"I like to think I do get around the pitch during the game and always give 110 per cent," he reflected after the 2-1 win. "I am fairly happy with my performance, I have been out with a slight hamstring strain and it was my first game back.
"Mine is not the prettiest job in the team. I like it though, I enjoy winning the ball and giving it to some of the flair players to use - I don't mind doing a job for the team at all.
"I would like to be a stone or so heavier and a couple of inches taller, it is something I'm working on and I'm eating as much as I can. I'm pigging out at the moment trying to put on some weight and hopefully it will come as I'm still only 18. I will fill out in time."
Clive Allen is not short of options for his reserve sides and Kieran is suitably content that the coach has confidence enough in his ability to play him in his favoured central midfield position.
"I've been working really, really hard in training and have been happy with how it is going. We've got a big squad now with new players so for him to put me in the team shows he has got faith in me. Hopefully I will get a run of games now to show what I can do."
Last word for now on July's Euro Championships and there is one nation in particular that Kieran would love to come up against.
"That's the one we all want! England with Ifil and Huddlestone - definitely."
There are five venues for the tournament: Windsor Park, The Oval, Ballymena Showgrounds, Mourneview Park in Lurgan and Newry Showgrounds. Northern Ireland qualify automatically as hosts and the identity of the seven other finalists will be known by the end of May.