BURNLEY youngster Jimmy Dunne is ready to prove himself all over again as he prepares for his first involvement with the Republic of Ireland Under-21s.

The centre half was handed his first Under-21s call-up by Noel King last week and he jets off to Dublin today to link up with the squad.

It's another significant moment for the 20-year-old, who is enjoying a stellar 2017/18 campaign.

Dunne began the season on loan with Barrow in the National League but in January he joined Accrington Stanley until the end of the season for his first taste of Football League action.

The former Manchester United youngster has caught the eye at the Wham Stadium, with his performances seeing him nominated for February's League Two player of the month award and he has helped Stanley to the top of the table.

Those performances have been recognised by King, who has included the Drogheda-born defender in his squad for a double header this week.

Dunne revealed that his Burnley Under-23s boss Michael Duff, himself a former Northern Ireland international centre back, had broken the good news to him last week.

"It’s my first one. I’m very excited about it," Dunne said of the call-up.

"We have a friendly game against Iceland and then a competitive qualifier against Azerbaijan, so I’m really excited.

"I was at home (when I found out), my under-23s manager gave me a call and congratulated me and said the hard work starts even more so now."

Dunne is a graduate of the St Kevin's Boys youth club in Dublin, the alma mater of Burnley colleagues Jeff Hendrick and Robbie Brady, who have both graduated to the senior Ireland set-up.

He is part of a 23-man squad for the fixtures, with King's side facing Ireland in a friendly on Thursday (March 22) before the UEFA U-21 European Championship qualifier against Azerbaijan on Tuesday, March 27. Both fixtures kick-off at 7.30pm at Shamrock Rovers' Tallaght Stadium, in Dublin.

While Dunne is delighted to have received the call-up he knows there is plenty more hard work to come as he now targets an international debut.

"It’s another step for me, it’s something I can look forward too, but as he (Duff) said the hard work has to start again and if I get on the pitch at some stage I’ve got to prove myself again," he said.

Dunne's displays in the Football League for Stanley have helped him earn the call-up but he admits getting into the promotion-chasing side when he joined midway through the season had been a challenge.

"It was hard enough getting in the team in the first place, when I got in I had to prove to the manager that I could stay there and I could help the team out. Hopefully I’ve done that so far," he said.

Ireland have won three or their five qualifiers so far to sit second in Group 5 and in with a chance of qualification.

King said: "The Iceland match will be a great opportunity for us to prepare for the qualifier against Azerbaijan and I expect the players to continue to maintain the high standards they've set themselves already in this campaign."