Seeing the Republic of Ireland name inscribed on the Uefa U17 championship trophy yesterday provided current boss Tom Mohan with added motivation as they kick off their 2015 challenge here in Bulgaria.
Ireland meet Holland in Sozopol on the Black Sea coast this morning, quietly confident of a positive start.
“It would indeed,” smiled manager Mohan on just how good it would be to get Ireland’s name on the trophy for a second time and follow in the footsteps of Brian Kerr’s heroes in 1998.
“Looking at all the names on it, it’s a fantastic achievement to have the Republic of Ireland there. You have to have aspirations and dreams. It’s great to be here and challenging for it.”
Birmingham City-based defender Corey O’Keeffe is suspended for this game while Shane Hanney, the Shamrock Rovers right-back-cum-midfielder, expects to be passed fit despite a slight groin strain.
“There are calls to be made and some players will be disappointed. But that’s football,” said Mohan in regard to his starting 11, which won’t be named until prior to leaving for the ground today.
Like Ireland, Holland qualified as a runner-up from their Elite Phase in which they were held to a 1-1 draw by Northern Ireland. Prior to those qualifiers, however, Holland thrashed - an albeit under-strength - England 7-0 in in the Algarve in February. Attacking midfielder Connor Ronan came on as a substitute for England in that game, before opting to switch to Ireland.
“Connor has filled us in on some information,” said Mohan of the Dutch. “They’ve very good attacking players and are strong in the wide areas also. They have quality, but all good sides have quality players. But there are areas we can exploit. We’ve worked on that in training over the last few days.”
Given the nature of the competition, not losing the opening game is crucial to hopes of progressing from the group.
“From your experience of these tournaments and the qualifiers, it’s so important to start well,” said Mohan.
That second game in Group D is on Sunday against Italy, who meet England in Bourgas in their opening match this afternoon.
Uefa Under-17 Championship — Group D: Republic of Ireland v Netherlands, Sozopol (11am Irish time).
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