The first African-born player to captain Ireland, Cameroon native Noe Baba, will lead out the Under-17s tonight against Azerbaijan in his new home of Castlebar (6pm).
These two friendly matches between the nations at Milebush Park — the second at noon on Thursday — are part of the team’s final preparations ahead of the UEFA qualifiers from September 29 –October 4 when Ireland face Sweden, Romania and Macedonia in a mini-group seeking one of the two places on offer into the elite stage.
Centre-back Baba was 10 when he moved with his family from Cameroon to Mayo and was first capped at just 13.
Though Manchester United have offered the 16-year-old his first professional contract, Celtic are now favourites to recruit him over the next month.
“Leading the team out in the town where I grew up, in front of everyone who has helped me in my career is going to be a very special moment for me,” said Baba last night.
The games are the first assignments for new Under-17 boss Tom Mohan, the former Derry City and Finn Harps player recently appointed to succeed John Morling who has left the FAI to join Brighton and Hove Albion as Academy manager.
Ireland U-17 squad: Peter Burke (Sunderland), Harry Doherty (Charlton Athletic), Ryan Rainey (Bonagee Utd), Noe Baba (Castlebar Celtic), Dan Cleary (Liverpool), Robin Dempsey (Aston Villa), Kevin Toner (Aston Villa), Bobby Moseley (Birmingham City), Craig Donnellan (College Corinthians), Conor Dimaio (Sheffield United), Jack Byrne (Manchester City), Jordan Toland (Swilly Rovers), Val Feeney (Athlone Town), Dean O’Halloran (Fulham), Alex O’Hanlon (Liverpool), Eoghan Stokes (Leeds United), Stephen Confey (St. Kevin’s Boys), Corey Galvin (Ipswich Town), Jake Mulraney (Nottingham Forest), Cody Mulhall (Stella Maris).
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