‘We’ve got the ability, we’ve got the players, so I don’t see why we can’t win the Euros’

IRELAND U17S KICK-OFF their Euros campaign against Serbia in the Stadium Kostrena, Croatia tomorrow, and there is a mood of confidence within the camp ahead of the tournament.

This positivity is reflected by Jordan Doherty’s response when asked about his side’s aims ahead of the event.

“Our aim is to go as far as we can and hopefully win the tournament,” he tells The42.

“We’ve got the ability, we’ve got the players to do it, so I don’t see why we can’t win (the Euros).

“We’re a hard-working team — that’s expected at this stage, that’s the bottom line for us. From there, we’ve got the quality players to get the ball down and play.”

While such talk may seem very optimistic given that the tournament includes some of the powerhouses of European football including Spain, Italy, Germany and France, this Irish team’s performances so far have been accomplished.

In a qualifying group that also featured Slovakia, Greece, Cyprus, Kazakhstan, Faroe Islands and Andorra, Ireland won six games out of six, earning four clean sheets along the way. In attack, they were also impressive. Brighton starlet Aaron Connolly managed seven goals in six games, while Adam Ihah of Corinthian Boys claimed four in six.

One notable aspect of the squad’s makeup is how many players are based in Ireland. Of the 18 players currently in Croatia, 10 play their football domestically, while only three are with top-flight English clubs — Lee O’Connor (Manchester United), Nathan Collins (Stoke City) and Gavin Kilkenny (Bournemouth).

Ireland won six games from six in their qualifying campaign for the Euros.

Is this a sign that Irish players are starting to resist the lure of the elite clubs and instead go to places where they are more likely to get first-team opportunities?

Doherty, who can play in both defence and midfield, started off at local side Balscadden before joining Home Farm at the age of seven and going on to become their club player of the year prior to his departure.

He spent eight years at the top Dublin schoolboy club before ultimately joining Sheffield United, whose senior side were recently promoted to the Championship.

Doherty, who turns 17 in August, has impressed since joining the Blades and looks well set to contend for a first-team spot in future, having spent this season alternating between the team’s U18 and U23 sides.

“The 23s, considering how young we were this year, we’ve had a really good season.

The Balbriggan native moved to England after completing his Junior Cert, with Sheffield United subsequently looking after the player’s educational needs.

Homesickness, he says, is never an issue, thanks to the wonders of modern technology.

Provided he starts, Doherty is likely to play his first-ever game in front of TV cameras on 10 May, with Ireland’s final group match against Germany set to be screened live on Eurosport 1. It is an experience, the youngster insists, he won’t be getting overawed by.

Nor are the Irish team overly worried about coming up against some of the best sides in the world at this level.

Republic of Ireland Under 17 Squad – UEFA European Under 17 Championship

Goalkeepers: Brian Maher (St Patrick’s Athletic), Kian Clarke (Bohemians).

Defenders: Lee O’Connor (Manchester United), Kameron Ledwidge (St Kevin’s Boys), Nathan Collins (Stoke City), Jordan Doherty (Sheffield United), Daryl Walsh (Waterford FC), Joe Redmond (Birmingham City).

Midfielders: Aaron Bolger (Shamrock Rovers), Luke Nolan (St Patrick’s Athletic), Brandon Kavanagh (Bohemians), Richard O’Farrell (St Patrick’s Athletic), Gavin Kilkenny (Bournemouth), Tyreik Wright (Lakewood AFC).

Forwards: Callum Thompson (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Rowan Roache (Blackpool), Adam Idah (Corinthian Boys), Aaron Connolly (Brighton & Hove Albion).


Thursday, 4 May: Republic of Ireland v Serbia, Stadium Rujevica, Rijeka, KO 15:30

Sunday 7 May: Republic of Ireland v Bosnia & Herzegovina, Stadium Kostena, KO 15:30

Wednesday, 10 May: Republic of Ireland v Germany, Stadium Rujevica, Rijeka, KO 11:00, LIVE on Eurosport 1

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