U17 EURO | O'Brien praises players for EUROs run
A 3-0 defeat at the hands of a classy Spanish outfit saw Ireland exit the tournament at the Quarter Final stage in Budapest but the squad, the youngest in the tournament, have won plaudits for their performances that saw them reach the last eight.
O’Brien, who has reached four U17 European Championships and made it to the Quarter-Finals on three occasions, had a squad containing 18 players from the EA SPORTS LOI Academy. Included in this group were seven players still eligible for next year’s competition and on Saturday evening Shamrock Rovers’ Ade Solanke was introduced making him the youngest player to play at this year’s tournament.
O’Brien said: “I'm immensely proud of my players.
"We come here off the back of two qualifying campaigns and got out of a tricky group after a tough opener and pair ourselves against a top nation in world football. Even at youth level they're on a different level.
"However we competed, we tried to stay in the game but I couldn't ask any more of them and when they reflect on it they'll realise they've done themselves, their family and their nation proud.
“We were the youngest squad here, there’s a lot eligible for next season who would have gained a lot of experience from this. We’ll be hoping the experiences and opportunities they gained in the tournament will be a good starter for them when we start again in July with the next group. There’s never a guarantee we’ll qualify and hopefully those involved in this campaign will bring those high standards to next season.
Reflecting on the number of League of Ireland players involved in the squad, O’Brien added: “I think it’s good for everyone to see the level against Spain, and the level across the tournament. We did compete, we played good football and scored some fantastic goals. We got punished by Spain for two goals and that’s a big learning for the players. However, for the League of Ireland players their clubs are doing great work, the knowledge is there and we all know the support for them needs to come and we know that there are people working hard in the background for that and hopefully see some action around that in the coming months.”
The Men’s Under-17s will begin qualification for the next campaign in October with Ireland to host the first round of qualifying. Ireland face Armenia, Iceland and Switzerland in their group.
Before preparing for the next campaign O’Brien thanks his players and staff adding: “I want to thank everyone, the players, they’ve been phenomenal they are a great bunch of lads, they really are. I want to thank the staff they have worked tirelessly not only in the preparation for the tournament but during it and we can hold our heads up high when we return to Ireland.”