Maiden Ireland U21 call-up for Mullingar’s Aidan Keena

Republic of Ireland U21 manager Stephen Kenny has called up Mullingar man and Hearts striker Aidan Keena to his squad for the forthcoming European U21 Championship Qualifiers against Armenia and Sweden.

Keena has featured for Ireland at all grades between U15 and U19, but this is his first call-up to the U21 setup.

He is one of a number of new faces in a squad disrupted by injuries and senior call-ups. Troy Parrott (Tottenham Hotspur) and Aaron Connolly (Brighton) are part of Mick McCarthy’s plans for the final Euro 2020 Qualifier against Denmark, while Celtic’s Jonathan Afolabi is injured.

Keena, is one of three out-and-out forwards named in the U21 squad, alongside Norwich City’s Adam Idah and Southampton star Michael Obafemi.

The former Mullingar Athletic, Shelbourne and St Patrick’s Athletic striker, who enjoyed successful loan spells at Queen’s Park and Dunfermline, has struggled to get a start for Hearts this season, although he is a regular fixture in the first-team squad.

During the summer, manager Craig Levein signed Norwich City’s Steven Naismith on a permanent deal, and also added Manchester City reserve Ryotaro Meshino, Wigan’s Jamie Walker and Sheffield United’s Conor Washington to bolster the Hearts attack.

However, the Jambos have only managed ten goals in eleven games and currently lie second from bottom in the SPL, costing Levein his job last week.

Keena, who scored the winning penalty for Hearts in their recent Scottish League Cup quarter-final win over Aberdeen, was widely expected to play some role in their semi-final against Rangers last Sunday, but remained on the bench.

With new blood set to take the reins of the club in the near future, an opportunity could be around the corner for the Mullingar man to make his mark.

Motherwell boss Stephen Robinson is the favourite to succeed Levein. However, none other than Roy Keane has emerged as a firm contender with the bookies to take the hot seat at Tynecastle.

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