International teams return to training
With football around the world halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the first signs of the international game getting back to a routine are beginning to show with Ireland Under-15s Head Coach Jason Donohue holding a training camp last Saturday for 32 players hoping to earn their first Ireland caps.
Jason Donohue said: “It was great to be back. We had the top 32 players in from the national academies which we identified through our player identification report.
“The performances were fantastic and now me and the recruitment staff are going to cover as many games as possible to give every player out there the opportunity to impress us to be in the first squad for the season.
“We have a full football calendar planned and we are just waiting to see how much can be completed in light of the COVID restrictions.”
Under-16s and Under-17s Head Coaches Paul Osam and Colin O’Brien will run the rule of their respective age groups this week. Osam’s 2005-born selection will be put through their paces at Abbotstown while O’Brien will assess a group of 18 at Johnstown House.
Paul Osam said: “I’ve missed it and it will be great to get out there again. Of course, it will be different and somewhat surreal to what we know but it’s good to be back.
“I missed half a season with my 2004 team and also the 2005s didn’t finish the second half of their season either. I’ve worked closely with Jason (Donohue) on the players he had last year and we’ll bring them in and focus on their development so come the end of 2020/21 we have a good group of players ready for competitive tournament football with Colin O’Brien.”
Colin O’Brien said his players are feeling fresh ahead of a new international season: “We’re delighted to get the green light to do preparation with home-based players.
“We’re like every country where a lot of our players haven’t had an international game since January and, in some cases, haven’t had a club game since last October. The clubs here in Ireland have been excellent in the last few months, we’ve be able to see teams train, play and discuss with players how they’ve been working.
“There’s a real freshness among the players and positive signs about their physical progression. Now it’s all about preparation for our European qualification round in October.”
For Under-19s Head Coach Tom Mohan a chance to get back out on grass couldn’t come soon enough. The cessation of football has meant he has had to wait since last November to take to the touchline.
Later this week he will hold a training camp at Abbotstown for more than 60 players.
Tom Mohan said: “We’re going to try and see as many players as we can as we’ve lost a lot of months due to the lockdown. I’ll be looking at four squads of 16 home-based players and it’s an opportunity for them to impress and make a claim for a squad selection.
“Myself and the staff have been able to watch a few friendlies and training sessions. The players look in great shape which is testament to themselves and their clubs.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to get a couple of friendlies confirmed for September and October ahead of the qualifiers in Ireland in November. That’s our plan, but with the current circumstances we know we must be flexible.”
Last week saw a return to action for Dave Connell’s Women’s Under-19 team. A home-based selection took on Peamount United as part of their preparation for the 2020/21 season
In Waterford, James Scott is preparing his Women’s Under-17 team this week for Elite Round qualification for the European Championships. The 2003 group were set to take on Denmark, Serbia and Austria in March but the fixtures were postponed due to the pandemic. It is now hoped that the final stage of qualifications can be held in September.
James Scott said: “In the circumstances, sport is an outlet for everyone and puts a smile on people’s faces. I’ve really enjoyed working with this group and it would have been cruel for our time to end together in March.
“But we’re back in this week preparing for the Elite Round which is really exciting. We’re in an unusual qualifying group where every team in it all feel they could top it.
“I’m buzzing for it, we’ll be playing in the RSC and I always feel that playing at home gives you that extra advantage.”