Big crowd expected at Tallaght Stadium on Thursday night
UEFA UNDER 17 CHAMPIONSHIPS
There is an upbeat but professional mood within the Republic of Ireland Under-17 camp ahead of their Group A finale against Belgium on Thursday, May 9 in Tallaght Stadium.
With two games played so far in the 2019 UEFA European Under-17 Championships, Colin O’Brien’s squad have collected two points following draws with Greece and Czech Republic. And the team’s chances of making it through to the quarter-finals are very much alive.
The positive play from Ireland has been one of the highlights of the tournament to date, along with the big crowds, where over 6,500 spectators have already come out in support of the boys in green. Another bumper attendance is expected for this crunch clash.
A win would put Ireland into the quarter-finals for a third straight year, but all four teams in Group A can still qualify for the knock-out stages with Greece v Czech Republic kicking off at the same time on Thursday – albeit their game will be played in the Carlisle Grounds.
Both Festy Ebosele and Conor Carty are suspended for Ireland, while goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu and midfielder Joe Hodge sat out training on Wednesday as precautions following two games in a week.
Republic of Ireland Head Coach Colin O’Brien
“This game against Belgium presents a massive opportunity for our players – who have showed great spirit to secure two points already in this tournament – to secure a place in the quarter-finals.
“We are still bitterly disappointed with what happened in our last game against Czech Republic. This tournament is meant to be about the development of young players, so surely that means enabling them to play as many games as possible. If that is the case then why should a young player suffer because of an opponent cheating and an official being misled? Our player, and our team, suffers because of an injustice.
“After the game in Waterford, I was fired up and spoke about appealing the decision. Of course, I knew the rules but what I was referring to was appealing against the Czech player cheating and the referee being conned. We have to stand up and fight against this, especially in an elite tournament where the focus should be on developing players for the future. And part of that should be stamping out cheating.
“Our players have not dwelled on that decision, they have switched their focus to the Belgium game, which we know will be a tough test. There is a resilience and togetherness in this group of players, which gives us a great chance of being one of the two teams to make it out of Group A.
“We have had fantastic support in our two games so far and we hope that Tallaght Stadium will be rocking on Thursday night. These players deserve to have a strong support behind them and I’m sure that they will respond by giving it everything in what is a huge game.
Republic of Ireland
Goalkeepers: Gavin Bazunu (Manchester City), Jimmy Corcoran (Preston North End), Harry Halwax (Derby County)
Defenders: Sean McEvoy (Ballinmallard United), Anselmo Garcia McNulty (Real Betis), Andrew Omobamidele (Norwich City), Timi Sobowale (Manchester City), James Furlong (Shamrock Rovers)
Midfielders: Charlie McCann (Manchester United), Joe Hodge (Manchester City), Brandon Holt (St Patrick’s Athletic), Seamas Keogh (Southampton), Ronan McKinley (Derry City), Sean Kennedy (Sunderland), Festy Ebsoele (Derby County), Roland Idowu (Southampton)
Forwards: Matt Everitt (Brighton & Hove Albion), Conor Carty (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Joshua Giurgi (Norwich City)
Goalkeepers: Maarten Vandevoordt (KRC Genk), Senne Lammens (Club Brugge)
Defenders: Ynus Bahadir (KRC Genk), Rob Nizet (Anderlecht), Killian Sardella (Anderlecht), Hugo Siquet (Standard), Tibo Persyn (Inter Milan)
Midfielders: Ameen Al Dakhil (Standard de Liège), Samuel Asoma (Club Brugge), Mathias De Wolf (Club Brugge), Anouar Ait Ek Hadj (Anderlecht), Wouter George (AA Gent), Marco Kana (Anderlecht), Jérémy Landu (Standard de Liège)
Forwards: Thibo Baeten (Club Brugge), Jeremy Doku (Anderlecht), Franck Idumbo-Muzambo (AA Gent), Chris Kalulika (Anderlecht), Francois-Xavier Engolo (Anderlecht)
– Ireland and Belgium have met three times in this tournament, with the Belgians winning twice and Ireland claiming one victory
– Ireland qualified automatically as host nation, but have played international friendly games against Turkey, Czech Republic, Germany, England, Belgium, Poland, and Finland over the last year
– Yet to reach a final in this tournament, Belgium were in the semi-finals as recent as last year. They conquered their Qualifying Round with three wins before repeating that feat in the Elite Round
– This is Ireland’s 12th appearance in this finals tournament with their best finish coming as champions in 1998 (when it was graded at Under-16 level)
– This is Belgium’s 14th appearance in this finals tournament with their best finish coming as semi-finalists in 2007, 2015 & 2018
Friday, May 3: Republic of Ireland 1-1 Greece (Tallaght Stadium)
Friday, May 3: Czech Republic 1-1 Belgium (Tolka Park)
Monday, May 6: Republic of Ireland 1-1 Czech Republic (RSC, Waterford)
Monday, May 6: Belgium 3-0 Greece (City Calling Stadium, Longford)
Belgium v Republic of Ireland
Thursday, May 9
Live on TV: RTÉ2
Referee: Krzysztof Jakubik (Poland)
Game Hashtag: #BELIRL
Tournament Hashtag: #U17EURO
Ireland Team Hashtag: #IRLU17
– Tickets will be available at Tallaght Stadium from 17:00, priced at €5 for adults and free for Under-16s
– Tickets are still available online via www.fai.ie/tickets