McCaffrey expects tough test in U19 elite phase
The Republic of Ireland U19 side kick off their UEFA Championship, elite qualifying stage tomorrow (Friday) in Tongeren against group 4 hosts, Belgium and Irish boss, Sean McCaffrey has warned his team that they will face a tough physical battle at the Complex Op de Keiberg in the opening game.
Belgium eased through the first qualifying phase of the competition from a group containing Croatia, Estonia and Kazakhstan and their squad include a number of players who made it to the semi finals of the UEFA U17 Championship in Iceland in 2007.
Finn Harps goalkeeper, Ciaran Gallagher has been called up to the Irish squad and McCaffrey has no injury worries as all of the 18 players came through their final training session at the Nevok Gruitrode FC ground on Wednesday.
Irish manager, Sean McCaffrey has stressed to his side, the importance of keeping possession against such an imposing team, “The first game of any UEFA Championship qualifiers is always important but the game against Belgium is going to be a very challenging battle from our point of view. Belgium are a very physical side compared to our young team and they like to defend deep and attack on the break. If the team hold on to possession for large periods of the game, I feel that Belgium will struggle and there is every chance that we will get a positive result from the game,” he said.
“The squad have been in tremendous form after our three days training camp prior to the tournament. There are seven players in the squad who played in last year’s UEFA Championship U17 finals in Turkey and another 12 who are eligible for next year’s tournament. I have no doubt that Belgium are confident that they can beat us on their home patch but we haven’t travelled to this tournament to give young players experience. The players that we have are here on merit and if we don’t win the opening game, it is just as important not to lose it. At this stage of any competition, the fear of losing can smother player but I am confident that our players are as prepared as they can be,” added McCaffrey.
“The squad that we have in Belgium are one of the strongest and best equipped teams that we could have brought to the UEFA Championship qualifiers. With the exception of a number of players including James McCarthy (injury) and Ger Hanley (leaving certificate) who have missed out, I feel that we have every chance of causing an upset in the group 4 qualifiers. The inclusion of Crystal Palace’s Sean Scannell is a tremendous boost for the side. He is a quality striker and possesses the skills to turn a game on its head in a matter of minutes," he added.
The Irish continue their UEFA Championship, group 4 qualifiers on Sunday, June 7th against Switzerland and their final game is against Sweden on Wednesday, June 10 at the Sport Centrum in Tessenderio, Belgium.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND U-19 SQUAD
Kieron Thorp (Crystal Palace)
Ciaran Gallagher (Finn Harps)
Lanre Oyebanjo (Histon)
Callum O’Connor (Blackburn Rovers)
Gavin Gunning (Blackburn Rovers)
Callum Morris (Newcastle United)
Damian McCrory (Plymouth Argyle)
Richie Towell (Celtic)
Conor Hourihane (Sunderland)
Conor Clifford (Chelsea)
Gearoid Morrissey (Blackburn Rovers)
Conor Henderson (Arsenal)
Aaron Doran (Blackburn Rovers)
Jamie Devitt (Hull City)
Ronan Murray (Ipswich Town)
Sean Scannell (Crystal Palace)
James Collins (Aston Villa)
Greg Cunningham (Manchester City)
UEFA U19 Championship – Elite Qualifying Phase Fixtures
5 June 2009
Belgium v Republic of Ireland
Complex Op de Keiberg – Tongeren
Kick-off – 19.00 hrs (local time)
7 June 2009
Republic of Ireland v Switzerland
Complex Op de Keiberg – Tongeren
Kick-off: 16.00 hrs (local time)
10 June 2009
Sweden v Republic of Ireland
Sport Centrum – Tessenderio
Kick-off: 19.00 hrs (local time).