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Dublin: 11 °C Monday 19 August, 2019

Ireland U19s set for Euros opener against Norway side managed by Premier League veteran

Tom Mohan’s side kick off their campaign in Armenia today.

unnamed Ireland U19 manager Tom Mohan pictured in Armenia with captain Lee O'Connor. Source: FAI

TEMPERATURES ARE EXPECTED to reach 34 degrees celsius — despite the 6.45pm kick-off time — when the Republic of Ireland U19 side begin their European Championship finals campaign today in the Armenian capital of Yerevan (3.45pm Irish time, RTÉ 2).

Norway will provide the opposition at the FFA Academy Stadium, as Ireland aim to make a positive start in Group B, which is also made up of France and Czech Republic. 

Tom Mohan’s youngsters were the only team to reach the tournament with a 100% record from their six qualifying games. They scored 18 goals and conceded just three while accounting for Bosnia & Herzegovina, Faroe Islands, Netherlands, Romania, Azerbaijan and Russia.

However, Mohan has been robbed of a host of key personnel as clubs are not obliged to release their players due to the tournament not taking place during a designated international window. Ireland used 28 players during the qualifiers, 13 of whom haven’t made the journey to Armenia.

Among the absentees are Adam Idah (Norwich City), Conor Coventry (West Ham United) and Jason Knight (Derby County), who have already been capped at U21 level. Troy Parrott (Tottenham Hotspur), Luca Connell (Celtic) and Nathan Collins (Stoke City) are missing too. Strikers Michael Obafemi (Southampton) and Aaron Connolly (Brighton & Hove Albion) — who didn’t feature in qualifying but are eligible for the grade — are also unavailable.

Luca Connell Luca Connell, who was recently called up to the Ireland senior squad, won't be involved at the U19 Euros. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Nevertheless, the Ireland manager is optimistic for his side’s prospects at the eight-team tournament, the final of which will be played at Yerevan’s 14,000-capacity Republican Stadium on Saturday, 27 July.

“As a group of staff and players, we work extremely hard and we want to bring our preparation onto the pitch on Monday to produce a big performance,” Mohan said yesterday.

“The players have showed an excellent attitude since we met up last Tuesday and in the three-day training camp in Dublin before that, where their performances evaluated them to being included for this tournament.

“A lot of work went on behind the scenes, with FAI Head of Fitness Dan Horan helping our doctor Andrew Delany and physio Michael Spillane to keep the players in shape and in the right frame of mind, considering this is officially the off-season period at club level for them.

“They did a lot, especially in preparation for the extreme heat that we have experienced here in Yerevan. Everyone on our staff has been brilliant in playing their part and the players have responded to everything that has been asked of them.”

Screen Shot 2019-07-14 at 18.13.24 The Republic of Ireland U19 squad for the 2019 European Championships in Armenia. Source: FAI

Ireland’s 20-man squad features five players who have yet to be capped at U19 level: Andrew Omobamidele (Norwich City), Ciaran Brennan (Sheffield Wednesday) and Brandon Kavanagh (Shamrock Rovers), as well as 16-year-olds Joe Hodge (Manchester City) and Matt Everitt (Brighton & Hove Albion). Omobamidele, Hodge and Everitt all played for the U17s in the recent European Championship finals in Ireland.

Mohan added: “We have momentum built up from the qualifiers. The new boys who have come in have blended in really well with the squad and we want to keep that momentum going. It’s a great occasion, but we have to play the game and focus on what we have to do.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for the players. There is great competition for places as the players have trained very well and their attitude has been top class. We don’t want to leave this tournament with any regrets and we are aiming to get off to a positive start.”

Norway, today’s opponents, are managed by Gunnar Halle, the defender who represented his country at the 1994 and ’98 World Cups. Halle spent seven seasons of his playing career in the Premier League, making 184 appearances in the English top flight while at Oldham Athletic, Leeds United and Bradford City.

Despite starting their qualifying campaign with a defeat to Slovakia, Norway rebounded with wins over Ukraine and Albania in the preliminary stage, before advancing to the finals by topping their elite group courtesy of a draw with Hungary and victories against Germany and Croatia.

Portugal U17 v Norway U17 - UEFA European Under 17 Championship - Group B - Banks's Stadium Fans of 1990s Premier League nostalgia are likely to remember Norway U19 manager Gunnar Halle. Source: EMPICS Sport

Ireland will be captained by Manchester United defender Lee O’Connor, who helped Stephen Kenny’s U21 side reach the semi-finals of the Toulon Tournament last month. Closing in on his 55th appearance across the age grades, the Waterford native is one of Ireland’s most-capped underage internationals of all time.

Owing to an accumulation of yellow cards during the qualifying process, Aston Villa attacker Tyreik Wright will be forced to sit out today’s opening game with a suspension.

The top two teams in each of the two groups will be rewarded with places in the semi-finals, which are scheduled to be played on Wednesday, 24 July.

Group A consists of Spain, holders Portugal, Italy and hosts Armenia. Spain were 4-1 winners against Armenia yesterday. Portugal recorded a 3-0 victory over Italy.

Republic of Ireland fixtures

  • Monday, 15 July: Republic of Ireland v NORWAY, Yerevan Football Academy Stadium, 3:45pm (Irish Time) — Live on RTÉ 2
  • Thursday, 18 July: Republic of Ireland v FRANCE, Banants Stadium, Yerevan, 6pm (Irish Time) — Live on RTÉ 2
  • Sunday, 21 July: Republic of Ireland v CZECH REPUBLIC, Yerevan Football Academy Stadium, 6pm (Irish Time) — Live on RTÉ 2

Republic of Ireland squad

Brian Maher (St Patrick’s Athletic), George McMahon (Burnley), Andy Lyons (Bohemians), Mark McGuinness (Arsenal), Oisin McEntee (Newcastle United), Andrew Omobamidele (Norwich City), Jack James (Unattached), Kameron Ledwidge (Southampton), Ciaran Brennan (Sheffield Wednesday), Joe Hodge (Manchester City), Lee O’Connor (Manchester United), Barry Coffey (Celtic), Niall Morahan (Sligo Rovers), Brandon Kavanagh (Shamrock Rovers), Conor Grant (Sheffield Wednesday), Jonathan Afolabi (Unattached), Ali Reghba (Leicester City), Tyreik Wright (Aston Villa), Matt Everitt (Brighton & Hove Albion), Festy Ebosele (Derby County).

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Paul Dollery

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