Opportunities for Collins in Under-19 Qualifiers

Opportunities for Collins in Under-19 Qualifiers

Ireland Under-19 striker James Collins quickly recovered from the disappointment of being sent-off on his International debut to score in each of his next two matches. 
4th Jun 2009
Republic of Ireland Under-19 striker James Collins has experienced contrasting fortunes on the International stage since declaring for Sean McCaffrey's side at the start of the season but is eager to finish the campaign strongly.

The Aston Villa ace is part of the 18-man Irish squad in Belgium vying for a slot at the U19 European Championships in Ukraine this July.

Up first for the Irish is a testing tie against Belgium on Friday at the Complex Op de Keiberg in Tongeren followed by the meeting with Switzerland at the same venue two days later. They finish the mini-group on Wednesday, June 10, when Sweden provides the opposition at the Sport Centrum in Tessenderio.

Collins knows the margin of error during the three games has to be minimal if Ireland are to achieve the top position in the group they need to qualify. Nathan Delfouneso, a colleague of Collins in the Villa reserves, helped England book their place at the eight-nation showpiece over the weekend and the forward is aiming to replicate that feat.

"The Belgium game is the one we're all thinking about and it's crucial we get a result against the host nation," said the Coventry native, eligible for Ireland through his mother who was born in Mullingar, County Westmeath.

"Sean (McCaffrey) has told us that Belgium will be physically strong and, of course, they'll have the crowd behind right them. That won't bother us too much because we believe we're good enough to come out of this group."

Amid much anticipation, Collins got to make his International debut in the UEFA first phase qualifying tie against Liechtenstein last November but it ended on a sour note for the newcomer as he picked up a second yellow card late on for converting a chance after the whistle had blown for offside.

Consequently, he was suspended for the final game of the series against France but bounced back in formidable fashion by netting in each of the friendly matches in Russia in February.

"It did my confidence the world of good to score those two goals," he admitted. "I didn't know any of the lads until I linked up the squad but I've blended in well and they're a great bunch.

"The European Championship finals are sure to be a brilliant experience for us all, if we can make it through. I ended the season on a high by scoring in the reserve final against Sunderland and earning a new professional contract. Reaching the finals would really round off a great campaign."

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).