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Dublin: 16 °C Saturday 20 July, 2019
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The Ireland youngster aiming to follow in Liam Miller's footsteps

Tyreik Wright is set to represent the Boys in Green in the U19 Euros.

Ireland's Tyreik Wright (file pic).
Ireland's Tyreik Wright (file pic).
Image: Simon Stacpoole/INPHO

IRELAND’S TYREIK WRIGHT will be hoping to enjoy a similarly fruitful career to the late Liam Miller as the youngster prepares to represent his country at the U19 European Championships.

The left winger from Ovens, County Cork, is set to travel to Armenia for the upcoming tournament, with a number of more high-profile names, including Adam Idah, Troy Parrott, Aaron Connolly, Conor Coventry, Nathan Collins, Michael Obafemi and Lee O’Connor expected to miss out.

The fact that the Euros do not take place during an official Fifa international window means clubs have control over whether or not players travel, with many keen to keep hold of their young players.

Aston Villa, however, have allowed Wright to attend the tournament, and he will be hoping to replicate the feat of Miller — a family friend who also grew up in Ovens — as the midfielder was part of the Ireland U16 side that secured the Euros title in Scotland back in 1998.

“My uncle [Martin O’Leary] was one of his best friends, they played together for Lakewood Athletic and Ballincollig and my mother [Nicola O’Leary] was friends with him too so it was really say to see,” Wright recalls. “We were all devastated [when he died]. We went to see his family and it was devastating to see them upset.

“My uncle and mum always spoke highly about him, that he was an unbelievable professional, he was humble and always had time for everyone, that he was a top guy.

“I remember being in the same places as him but I never got a chance to meet him properly. But because of what he did and where he was from, he was someone to look up to and hopefully I can [follow in his footsteps].

“He won a lot of things, he had a lot of achievements so it was sad to see him pass away at such a young age with a young family.”

Ovens is a GAA hotbed, and Wright played the sport growing up, though soccer was ultimately his preferred choice.

“You don’t see many soccer players [in Ovens] and a lot of my friends are still playing GAA. I played for Eire Og, I was good at Gaelic football but shocking at hurling. Around 12 or 13 I made the choice that it was football for me.”

Wright moved over to England aged 15 and admits to being homesick initially. But gradually, he has adapted to his surroundings, making encouraging progress of late, with a stint in Villa’s U23 side after doing well for the U18s.

I was playing for the U18s all season, then I got called up to the U23s and trained with the first team a few times as well. A lot of the 23s went on loan, so five of us got called up to the 23s, and it was good having them there, because when things were going wrong, they could help you. It was a big step-up, you could get players who were 21 or 22, whereas in 18s, you’re against 17 or 18-year-olds and it’s a lot more physical and the game is quicker. But I got a lot of experience from it and I’m looking forward to next season.”

Playing in Armenia later this month will be the third time Wright has represented Ireland at a major tournament, having also played in the U17 Euros in 2017 and 2018. He missed out on the U19s’ initial qualification round, before featuring in the elite phase, as Ireland went through after winning six games from six.

The 17-year-old, who is suspended for Ireland’s first game against Norway on 15 July after picking up two bookings in the qualifiers, will be one of the younger players competing, but he doesn’t sound in anyway daunted by the prospect.

“We’re not here to take part. We want to go and win it. There are no knockout stages as such, it’s just the groups, semi-finals and finals. 100% we have enough talent. The lads are excellent. We can’t wait to get started and show what we can do. We’re underdogs, but we’re confident.”

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Paul Fennessy

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