It may have been a step too far in the end, but the Republic of Ireland Women’s U19 team made a giant leap forward for youth football around the country.
Dave Connell ran out of superlatives for his squad after last night’s 4-0 semi-final defeat by the Netherlands that ended their Uefa European Championship adventure.
Yet, this young Irish side has created an incredible stir following qualification for this tournament, enjoying some remarkable wins over Spain, England, and Sweden.
Connell, who has worked with the group for the last three years, acknowledged their commitment and effort from his players, before praising their most important quality: character.
“We’re very disappointed to be out of the competition but I’m very proud of the players,” said the manager.
“Even when they were losing 4-0 in the second half, the players stuck with it and they created a few chances,” added Connell.
“Tonight was just a bridge too far for our girls. They’ve been fantastic throughout this tournament but the Dutch are a very talented side, with a huge depth of options at their disposal and major structures.
“We’ve contributed a lot to this tournament and I hope the people back home are proud of the players. They’ve been brilliant, both on and off the pitch, and we’ve 12 of the 18 players underage again next season, so there’s plenty to be positive about.”
While six of the players involved will hope to now move on to senior level, there are still 12 members of this squad available for the next qualifying campaign and that leave Connell with plenty of hope for the future.
However, the biggest positive to come from the performances in Norway over the past week — and the results — of this squad is that it could have a knock-on effect for women’s football in Ireland.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved