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Ireland's 17-year-old Man City starlet focuses on positives after Euros agony

Timi Sobowale feels the team played well despite a disappointing outcome against Belgium.

Ireland's Timi Sobowale (file pic).
Ireland's Timi Sobowale (file pic).
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

MANCHESTER CITY YOUNGSTER Timi Sobowale was refusing to get too downhearted as Ireland U17s fell short of qualification for the European Championships knockout stages at Tallaght Stadium last night.

A 1-1 draw with Belgium meant Ireland finished the tournament with three consecutive draws, and Czech Republic’s 2-0 win over Greece in the other group game ensured the hosts’ campaign ended in disappointing circumstances.

Their exit comes despite some decent performances from the Irish players and Sobowale was philosophical afterwards. 

“It’s just football,” he tells The42. “The last three matches are just what the game is. We played very well against Greece, played very well against Czech Republic, played very well here [on Thursday]. Maybe we could have got another goal, but it’s tournament football and takes experience to learn from the game.”

Belgium’s opening goal was scored in controversial circumstances. Several Irish players felt Jeremy Doku had carried the ball out of play in the build-up before Chris Kalulika found the net. Sobowale was one of those who questioned Polish referee Krzysztof Jakubik.

“I haven’t seen a replay of the goal or anything, but listen, we can’t change it now. What’s done is done,” the centre-back says.

The 17-year-old was feeling the toll of a hectic schedule afterwards. He missed Ireland’s game with Czech Republic due to injury and also took a knock towards the end of last night’s match that required him to spend more time on the treatment table.

“I felt good after I got physio there. We’ve world-class physios here with the Republic of Ireland national team. I missed the last game and came back strong. Their [methods] worked and I was fit today.

It’s just international football [playing matches in quick succession] and something a lot of us have to get used to. Training every day with our club helps. If you want to go further with the national team, you’ve got to deal with it.”

Ireland boss Colin O’Brien suggested afterwards that the Irish players needed to make better decisions in the final third and Sobowale agreed that there was room for improvement.

“You can always do more. We’re a team that wants to learn. To a man, we all played well, but there are still things we need to work on. Take nothing away from the performance, but we are always eager to improve.

[Colin said afterwards to] just keep the head up and be very proud of ourselves. We’ve done the country justice on the field. It’s a tough one to take but the performance was good.

“We used the crowd as the 12th man. It was great energy from them. They really spurred us on [to find a winner] for the last few minutes, so we’re grateful for the support we got in Tallaght and the RSC as well.”

Sobowale is currently one of a crop of highly talented youngsters attempting to carve out a career for themselves in the game. The defender was born in Dundalk before moving to Dublin and then Waterford as a youngster. He highlights the role of his Nigeria-born parents as “a big part of my football career”.

“My mum couldn’t make it tonight, but my dad was here — he’s always there to support me,” he says.

Sobowale was one of three Man City players in the Ireland U17s squad for this tournament, with the similarly impressive Joe Hodge and Gavin Bazunu also catching the eye.

“I moved to Man City last summer. I’m enjoying improving every day as a player. They have top-class facilities and top-class coaches as well. Everything you need is there to help you improve as a player. So it’s a good place to be at.

“[Fellow Irish underage international] Tyreke Wilson’s over there as well and Megan Campbell for the women’s team, so it’s a good Irish core there. They have your back if anything goes wrong or if you have a question, they have answers for it, so it’s good.

At the moment you walk in the door [at the Etihad] and it’s a willing mentality. Nothing else is accepted. Even [underage] teams play the Man City way, a win is all we want and it’s a good club to be at for maturing on and off the pitch.

“Playing for the club I play for helps with the way Ireland play as well, so it’s positive.”

Since joining the club, Sobowale has established himself in City’s U18 side and asked about the prospect of going on holidays now that their season is over, his answer is telling.

“I’m going to go back to the club to just keep working. Next season, I want to kick on and do better than I did this season.

“It’s just about taking every opportunity I get and keep pushing myself to progress as a footballer.”

Gavan Casey, Murray Kinsella and Bernard Jackman tee up Saturday’s Champions Cup final and look at the backroom problems in Munster.:

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Paul Fennessy

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