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'I’m proud to score for Ireland. There’s no better feeling'

Matt Everitt scored and was named man of the match in his side’s Euro 2019 opener on Friday night.

Matt Everitt celebrates scoring against Greece.
Matt Everitt celebrates scoring against Greece.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

IRELAND U17 PLAYER Matt Everitt admitted he was “gutted” after the concession of a last-gasp goal meant the team had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Greece in their opening Euro 2019 fixture on Friday night at Tallaght Stadium.

However, the Brighton starlet, who scored Ireland’s goal and picked up the man-of-the-match award, emphasised the need to move on from the disappointment, as the team prepare to face Czech Republic (kick-off: 7pm, live on RTÉ 2) later today.

“It was a positive performance by the team,” Everitt said of Friday’s game. “We were right at them. We were causing them trouble. We got the goal. We defended well. We still got a few more chances after the goal.

“The team are gutted the way it ended. But the good thing is all the teams in our group are on the same amount of points. We’ve got a game against the Czech Republic and we’ve just got to get the boys heads up now.

“It’s tournament football. Every game, you’ve just got to put it behind you and move on to the next one. So we’re prepping for the game on Monday.”

Everitt had a decent chance on the counter-attack in the dying minutes to seal a victory, but overhit the final ball, as a couple of good opportunities for the hosts were missed before the late Greek leveller.

“It just got caught under my feet when I was running through and there was just a bit of fatigue there. But what can I do? I’ve just got to get on with it.

“We got past their backline, just that final pass, the final decision wasn’t really there. We got our goal from a set piece, which we’re a threat from. But that’s something we need to [work on] for the next few games.”

The 16-year-old winger continued: “I’m proud to score for Ireland. There’s no better feeling. But at the end of the day, we didn’t get the three points. I had chances that I still could have taken, so I’m disappointed with them, but I’m pleased with my performance.

“It was an unbelievable experience [playing in front of over 4,000 home fans]. Especially in the second half when I was on the side of the crowd, it was added motivation. When I scored, it was incredible. Even when I came off, I got a standing ovation.”

Everitt added that there was “more to come” from this Ireland team, though they must cope with the demands of three games in less than a week over the coming days, with their final group match against Belgium taking place on Thursday.

At club football, the games are high quality [such as] the FA Youth Cup. But that’s not anything like the Euros. This is something that’s new to the boys. But we’ve been prepping for it all year. We’ve had tournaments and games to get us ready for all of this.”  

Born in England, Everitt qualifies for Ireland through his Cork-born grandmother. A number of his family were in Tallaght on Friday amid a momentous occasion for the teenager, who has spent the last few years in the Boys in Green’s underage set-up.

“I’d just moved to Brighton from Brentford about three years ago now. I was over playing in the Hibernia Cup. [The Football Association of Ireland] spotted me there. They came over to watch a few games for Brighton. At the end of the U14 season for England and the U15 season for Ireland, I got my first call-up.”

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Paul Fennessy

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