Ireland U19: Players benefit from FAI Programmes
As the Ireland squad continue their preparations for their Group B opener against Norway on Monday, 15 July, it is curious to note how many of the 20 players have been aided by FAI programmes, which include:
- SportsDirect FAI Summer Soccer Schools
- SPAR FAI Primary School 5s
- FAI Emerging Talent Programme
- FAI / Fingal Transition Year Course
- FAI / ETB Course
- FAI Coach Education
While a number of the players started out on the SportsDirect FAI Summer Soccer Schools camps and the SPAR FAI Primary School 5s, that was merely a launchpad as they went on to represent their schools, progress at their respective schoolboy clubs, and earn international recognition - all while still attending school.
Just last year, forward Ali Reghba was named as the Schools International Player of the Year for his performances with Chanel College, Coolock. Another player to make the most of his time during school was defender Andrew Omobamidele, who spent a year on the FAI/Fingal Transition Year Course in Corduff, Dublin.
The next step after schools level was being invited to the Emerging Talent Programme, where 12 of the 20 players benefitted from time spent in centres in Cork, Dublin, Louth, North Tipperary, Sligo/Leitrim, Waterford, Westmeath, and Wicklow.
The remaining six players who did not feature in that Programme were born in England, but have been part of the Ireland international set-up for a number of years with some earning their first caps at Under-15 level. Being able to rise through the system, under the tutelage of Head Coaches Jason Donohue, Paul Osam, Colin O'Brien, Jim Crawford, and Andy Reid, has been a huge advantage.
Every player in the current Under-19 squad has improved due to the coaching and support provided by the FAI - whether through its domestic programmes or when they have been called into international camps.
Ireland Under-19 Head Coach Tom Mohan believes the consistency and professionalism provided to the players throughout their development has propelled them to this stage, where they are ready to face off against the top seven teams in Europe.
"There is no doubt that the 20 players in our Under-19 squad are good enough to compete in the UEFA European Championships because of the the hard work put in by so many dedicated coaches, volunteers & FAI staff," said Mohan.
"It is a credit to the players that they have continued to develop at each level along the way and the work done by the coaches & administrators at their respective schoolboy clubs has played big part in that too.
"However, the FAI programmes - particularly the Emerging Talent Programme because that is when you are coaching elite players - have been essential in shaping the players that they have become. So too has the FAI Coach Education system, because having better coaches will result in developing better players. It is clear to see that the more contact hours that the coaches get with the players, the better they become in a shorter space of time.
"A lot of our own coaching staff within this squad have been directly involved with these programmes and that continuity should not be underestimated. Ultimately, it is about the player learning and developing, but the more that we can do to help them the quicker they will advance in their careers."
Mohan also believes that credit should be shared with the SSE Airtricity League with the underage tiers - U13, U15, U17, U19 - proving to be a worthwhile avenue for home-based players to follow with more youngsters breaking into first-team squads.
"The SSE Airtricity League has played an important role for many of the players," stated Mohan.
"Andy Lyons won the Under-19 double with Bohemians, Ali Regbha came through at the same club after initially standing out for Shelbourne, Brian Maher has played regularly for St Patrick's Athletic's Under-17s & Under-19s, and both Brandon Kavanagh and Niall Morahan were promoted to the Shamrock Rovers and Sligo Rovers first-teams on the back of excelling in the underage tiers.
"The elevation of these players is proof that the League is moving in the right direction. And it is a massive endorsement of the work being done in the League that seeing a home-based player involved in an Ireland squad is no longer a huge surprise - they are there on merit."
Republic of Ireland Under-19 Squad
Goalkeepers: Brian Maher (St Patrick's Athletic), George McMahon (Burnley)
Defenders: Andy Lyons (Bohemians), Mark McGuinness (Arsenal), Oisin McEntee (Newcastle United), Andrew Omobamidele (Norwich City), Jack James (Unattached), Kameron Ledwidge (Southampton), Ciaran Brennan (Sheffield Wednesday)
Midfielders: Joe Hodge (Manchester City), Lee O'Connor (Manchester United), Barry Coffey (Celtic), Niall Morahan (Sligo Rovers), Brandon Kavanagh (Shamrock Rovers), Conor Grant (Sheffield Wednesday)
Forwards: Jonathan Afolabi (Unattached), Ali Reghba (Leicester City), Tyreik Wright (Aston Villa), Matt Everitt (Brighton & Hove Albion), Festy Ebosele (Derby County)
UEFA European Under-19 Championship - Group B
Monday, 15 July: Republic of Ireland v Norway, Yerevan Football Academy Stadium, KO 15:45 (Irish Time) - Live on RTÉ2
Thursday, 18 July: Republic of Ireland v France, Banats Stadium, Yerevan, KO 18:00 (Irish Time) - Live on RTÉ2
Sunday, 21 July: Republic of Ireland v Czech Republic, Yerevan Football Academy Stadium, KO 18:00 (Irish Time) - Live on RTÉ2
- Two groups of four teams will compete for the four Semi-Final spots on offer
- Group A consists of Armenia, Italy, Spain, and reigning champions Portugal
- The Semi-Finals will be played on 24 July, with the Final being staged on 27 July
- This is the 18th edition of this tournament (68th if Under-18 & Junior eras included)
How Ireland Qualified
10 October, 2018: Republic of Ireland 3-1 Bosnia & Herzegovina
13 October, 2018: Republic of Ireland 3-0 Faroe Islands
16 October, 2018: Republic of Ireland 2-1 Netherlands
20 March, 2019: Republic of Ireland 5-0 Romania
23 March, 2019: Republic of Ireland 3-1 Azerbaijan
26 March, 2019: Republic of Ireland 2-0 Russia