Connor Coventry is half veteran, half rising talent, an old head on the shoulders of a young woman, and a blazing ambition for success.
In June, the West Ham midfielder broke the Republic of Ireland’s record for international under-21 matches when he led Boys in Green to a 3-1 European Championship qualifier victory over Montenegro.
He’s a captain in Jim Crawford’s dressing room, but at club level the 22-year-old still struggles to break into the first team consistently.
Having joined the Hammers in 2018, Coventry has since spent on loan spells to Lincoln City, Peterborough United and MK Dons, although he’s been hovering around the edges this season and entering the field in the final few minutes of August’s 2-0 loss to Manchester City. .
“It’s a different situation, of course,” Coventry said on the eve of the first leg of the European playoff against Israel at Tallaght Stadium.
“At West Ham I will be one of the younger and fight more for a place in the team while here, I am still fighting for a place but I am more established and experienced.
“It’s a different scenario, but with both the same. You go out and play football and your basics have to be right. It’s easy to adapt between them as long as you’re doing everything right.”
Ireland can make a part of its history if it bypasses Israel. Never before has the country reached a major final in the under-21 age group.
They’re hugely excited and determined, Coventry says, but he knows it won’t be easy.
“They are a good team, a really good team. They want to play from back to midfield and they have some real technical players and some strength as well.
“They are a well-balanced team and a modern team too, it’s good to see the way they play. It will be interesting to see it up close.
“It’s a place we wanted to be in and everyone is really excited and we put a lot of work into it and now we have the opportunity to achieve what we want to achieve.
“I’d rather be outside Ireland than be on vacation, that’s really the truth. It’s a trip I’ve loved and every camp I’ve been in, I’ve enjoyed. We played really good football and achieved some great things together. I’m really proud of it.”
And what about the current sensation of the game, Erling Haaland?
The formidable Manchester City striker may arrive in Dublin in November for Norway’s friendly match against Stephen Kenny of the Republic of Ireland.
Coventry got an up-close look at his capabilities when he came off the bench with West Ham last month, and he was suitably impressed.
“Physically speaking, he’s amazing,” Coventry added. “The speed with which he moves for someone this big, the cleverness of his runs, his ends, he’s obviously a top player. He’s going to be one of the best players for the next fifteen years.
“There is nothing I can really say. Second goal [he scored against West Ham]The speed he got and the finish, yes everyone is excited about him and it’s exciting to be in the Premier League.”
Follow the Republic of Ireland vs Israel match in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship play-off match on Friday (KO 7pm) via the live blog on RTÉ.ie/Sports and the RTÉ News app, or watch the live broadcast on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player