Just because they’re in bonus territory at the Euro 19 finals doesn’t mean Ireland’s young guns are treating today’s semi-final as a free pass. Tom Mohan’s side have already overcome a litany of setbacks, including mass withdrawals and a sickness bug, to set up today’s meeting with holders Portugal.
They will once again have to contend with the early evening Armenian heat for a 6pm local kick-off at the Banants Stadium but with no pressure. That’s the view of Matt Everitt, one of the two 16-year-olds who finished Sunday’s 2-1 win over Czech Republic which sealed their passage.
The Surrey-born attacker never expected to be in Yerevan, content that his international exploits over the summer entailed an appearance at the Euro U17 finals in May. Once Mohan got snubbed by UK clubs in pursuit of his first-choice players, the back-up cast came into contention.
“It has been an incredible few months,” he admits.
Playing at one Euro finals was brilliant and stepping up the U19s has been an honour.
Everitt is amongst his squad still eligible for next year’s tournament but the opportunity of making an even bigger impact at this instalment is there for the taking.
“There’s no expectation on us heading into the semi-final,” he reasoned. “There’s a tie to be won and we’ll go into the game aiming for a spot in the final. We’re a nation of fighters and have caused upsets in big tournaments before. We’ll be ready for the challenge.”
Everitt declared for Ireland at 15 through his grandmother Theresa from Cork. She and the rest of his family have been observing the team’s exploits on the European stage.
“We’re a long way from home and my family couldn’t make it to Armenia because I was a late call-up,” he said.
“My gran now lives in Plymouth and my half-brother has family in Westport, Co Mayo.
“I’ve been sent some lovely videos. Watching them sing the national anthem in front of the television in their Ireland shirts has been brilliant.”
Captain Lee O’Connor and Jonathan Afolabi, who scored the opener in Sunday’s 2-1 win over Czech Republic, miss out through suspension.
“We have an extra incentive to reach the final as the players and staff, want to do it for both Lee and Johnny,” said Mohan.”
B Maher; A Lyons, M McGuinness, O McEntee, K Ledwidge; J Hodge, B Coffey; A Reghba, B Kavanagh, M Everitt; F Ebosele.