Doolin and the 18-man squad he unveiled yesterday, including three black players, travel to Belgrade for the European Championship elite stage qualifiers, from June 6-11. Racism has long blighted Serbian football, beamed across the world when their U21 Uefa qualifier against England descended into ugly scenes.
England players Thomas Ince and Steven Caulker alleged they were racially abused by opponents while monkey taunts could be clearly heard from the crowd when Danny Rose was walking off the pitch after receiving a red card. The subsequent sanctions imposed on the Serbia FA by Uefa — one U21 match to be played behind closed doors and an €80,000 fine — were widely slammed for their leniency. Rio Ferdinand claimed it proved the European governing body were not serious on tackling the issue.
As hosts of the upcoming mini-group, which also includes Switzerland and Slovakia as well as Ireland, Doolin insists Serbia have a duty to prevent any incidences of abuse.
“Serbia had a major incident last year for that England game,” said Doolin. “We have three black players in our squad — Noe Baba, Carel Tiofack and Bradley Garmston — so I’d hope that problem won’t be there when we play.
“It would be an awful shame for it [racism] to be brought into the tournament. Uefa will have their officials in Belgrade and I’m sure they will be strict on watching out for any of that.”
The presence of Cameroon-born Baba (16) is welcome for Doolin, after the Fulham defender recovered from ankle ligament damage which prevented him skippering the U17s at their elite qualifiers in Austria in March. Injuries, however, have ruled out two key players who helped Ireland progress from the first phase qualifiers in Luxembourg last October.
Captain Tommie Hoban of Watford is still nursing an ankle injury while a broken foot puts paid to the involvement of top scorer Mikey Drennan from Aston Villa. Blackburn’s powerful midfielder Darragh Lenihan once again misses out through injury too.
To top their group and reach the finals in Estonia, Doolin is adamant Ireland must avoid defeat in their opener against Switzerland on Thursday week, June 6, at the Obilic Stadium. The Boys in Green, unbeaten in their seven matches this season, then face Slovakia at the same venue two days later before concluding against the hosts Serbia on Tuesday, June 11 in Novi Sad.
IRISH U19 Squad: Goalkeepers: I Lawlor (Man City), D Rogers (Aberdeen). Defenders: S Long, S Griffin, P Sweeney (Reading), S Smith (Leicester City), N Baba (Fulham). Midfielders: K McEvoy (Tottenham), L Gallagher (Burnley), K Sadlier (West Ham), B Miele (Newcastle), S Kavanagh (Fulham), C Tiofack (Cadiz CF), B Garmston (West Brom), W Hayhurst (Preston). Forwards: S Byrne (Man Utd), S Maguire (West Ham), A Evans (Burnley).