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'Our main goal is to win the tournament and make history happen'

There is a positivity within the Ireland U17 squad epitomised by captain Seamas Keogh.

The Irish team begin their Euro 2017 campaign against Greece at Tallaght Stadium on Friday.
The Irish team begin their Euro 2017 campaign against Greece at Tallaght Stadium on Friday.
Image: Eóin Noonan/SPORTSFILE

THERE IS A confidence about the Ireland U17 team that belies their youth, as they prepare to compete in the European Championships over the coming days.

Granted, results of late indicate there is work to be done if they are two to emulate their counterparts of the last two years, both of whom managed to reach the competition’s quarter-finals.

The current side have lost five out of eight friendlies since last year’s Euros, including defeats to Czech Republic and Belgium, who are both in their group and will be reacquainted with one another in the coming days.

But despite this less-than-encouraging form, there is a positivity within the squad epitomised by captain Seamas Keogh.

“Our main goal is to win the tournament and make history happen,” the Southampton youngster says, ahead of Friday’s opener against Greece in Tallaght Stadium.

“We want to play the best football we can. We’re a comfortable squad and we can play out from the back. We have very good technical players in the team that play through the phases and stuff like that, so it’s great that we’re given the freedom and the paths to do that — we enjoy it.”

Keogh similarly plays down the likely absence of Tottenham youngster Troy Parrott.

“He’s a great player. He has other stuff, playing with older age groups. So we’ve prepared without him.

We’ve no problem scoring goals. We’ve four or five great attackers who can really put the ball in the net.”

In addition, Norwich’s Andrew Omobamidele echoes his team-mate’s upbeat outlook.

“We’re one of the best teams in this tournament. I think we’re well able to mix it with the big countries and I’m looking forward to it.

“Most of us have come through from the start of international football. There are a few new faces and it’s all good for us. We’ve all mixed well, so there’s good team chemistry. Most of us played against Finland a few weeks ago.

“To represent your country [against] all the best countries in Europe, this is the biggest platform I’ve played.

“Obviously, you would be a bit nervous, because it’s very important this tournament, but I’ve played in FA Youth Cups and stuff, so it’s nothing new. It’s pressure, but it’s a different type of pressure, because it’s international football.

“I think club football in England is more end-to-end stuff. International football is more like a game of chess — you have to be concentrating at all times. It’s waiting for your opponent to make a move, whereas club football is more attack-defend, attack-defend. [In] international football, it’s concentrating more, and knowing what your next move is going to be.”

Keogh is also well aware of the high-profile nature of the occasion and acknowledges he is heading into somewhat unfamiliar territory.

This will be relatively new. I haven’t really played in front of that big a crowd. It’s something I’m looking forward to and that I’ll cherish forever. All my friends and family will be there.”

The Sligo native currently plays underage football for Southampton alongside “probably six or seven Irish in the 23s and four or five in the 18s,” helping the latter finish their season in fourth place in the league recently.

The Irish captain, meanwhile, is confident that the Boys in Green can excel in spite of some disappointing outcomes to matches in the build-up to the tournament.

“As football people know, it’s not always [the case that] the result reflects the game. We’ve had some tough results that haven’t gone our way, but we’ve played really good football. It’s all experience and what we learned from those games will come into play on Friday.”

Gavan Casey and Murray Kinsella are joined by Andy Dunne to get stuck into last weekend’s Champions Cup semi-finals.:


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Paul Fennessy

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