Colin O’Brien says that his young Irish players are fully focused on tomorrow evening’s deciding Group A game against Belgium in Tallaght.
But, as the U17 European Championship hosts go in search of the win that would guarantee them a quarter-final berth, the Head Coach has reiterated his dismay at the controversial sending off of Festy Ebosele against the Czech Republic at the RSC in Waterford which means that he misses tomorrow night’s crunch match.
"We are still bitterly disappointed with what happened in our last game against Czech Republic,” said O’Brien. “This tournament is meant to be about the development of young players, so surely that means enabling them to play as many games as possible. If that is the case then why should a young player suffer because of an opponent cheating and an official being misled? Our player, and our team, suffers because of an injustice.
"After the game in Waterford, I was fired up and spoke about appealing the decision. Of course, I knew the rules but what I was referring to was appealing against the Czech player cheating and the referee being conned. We have to stand up and fight against this, especially in an elite tournament where the focus should be on developing players for the future. And part of that should be stamping out cheating.
Our players have not dwelled on that decision, they have switched their focus to the Belgium game, which we know will be a tough test. There is a resilience and togetherness in this group of players, which gives us a great chance of being one of the two teams to make it out of Group A.
"We have had fantastic support in our two games so far and we hope that Tallaght Stadium will be rocking on Thursday night. These players deserve to have a strong support behind them and I'm sure that they will respond by giving it everything in what is a huge game.”
In team news, Festy Ebosele and Conor Carty are suspended for the match, while goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu and midfielder Joe Hodge sat out training today as a precautionary measure following two games in a week.
After successive 1-1 draws in their opening games, a win tomorrow evening would put Ireland into the quarter-finals for a third straight year, and a draw might even prove enough, with all four teams in the group still in a position to qualify for the knock-out stages.
The other Group A game, between Greece and the Czech Republic, takes place at the Carlisle Grounds in Bray and kicks off, as does Ireland’s meeting with Belgium in Tallaght, at 7pm.