U19 squad named for UEFA elite qualifiers
Republic of Ireland Under-19 manager Sean McCaffrey has today (18 May) announced his 18-man squad for the upcoming UEFA elite stage qualifiers in Ukraine from May 26-31.
Group 3 pits Ireland with last year's Under-19 finalists, England and Ukraine, along with Bosnia-Herzegovina in what's considered the most difficult of all seven elite stage pools. Only the seven group winners will join hosts France at the finals in July.
McCaffrey's charges open the series on Wednesday, May 26 against England at the FFU Training complex in Kiev (12 noon) before meeting reigning champions and group hosts Ukraine two days later in Borex, Borodinka (4pm). Ireland conclude the group by returning to the FFU Training complex on Monday, May 31 to face Bosnia-Herzegovina (4pm).
The manager has included seven players from the squad he led to the Under-17 European Championships two years ago but will be missing three of those who featured at the Turkey-hosted finals due to injury and club commitments.
Goalkeeper Ger Hanley along with Richie Towell, Johnny Dunleavy, Shaun Timmins, Conor Hourihane, Robbie Brady and captain Conor Clifford, all played in 2008.
Knocks to Aaron Doran (Blackburn Rovers) and Gearoid Morrissey (Cork Foras FC) deny the duo the chance of repeating their qualification feat while Doran's club-mate Gavin Gunning is also unavailable due to League Two play-off commitments with on-loan club Rotterham United.
Rob Kiernan (Watford) and Callum O'Connor (Blackburn Rovers), two players to have impressed for the U19s since declaring last year, miss out too because of injury.
Even with the absence of such key players, McCaffrey believes the squad possesses sufficient calibre to be competitive in their pursuit of qualification.
"Many of these lads have experienced playing at a major finals tournament two years ago and their desire to clinch two qualifications in succession is huge," said McCaffrey.
"Our skipper, Conor Clifford, has recently captained Chelsea to the FA Youth Cup title while Conor Henderson has twice been on the bench for Arsenal's first-team during the Premier League run-in.
"Both Jamil Adam (Barnsley) and Joe Mason (Plymouth Argyle) have played in the Championship this season and the newcomer, Harry Crawford of Southend, has played seven first-team matches this term and got his first league goal.
"There's a lot of creativity throughout the group of players and it would a magical achievement for them to qualify considering the tough hand we've been dealt in the draw."
While McCaffrey concedes his side's qualifying prospects are hindered by the loss of key players such as Gunning, Doran and Kiernan, he's not allowing their absence undermine the confidence within the group.
"It's been an unfortunate trend in recent years that injuries have robbed us of vital players for the elite qualifiers at the end of the club season," he admitted.
"That's beyond our control and the lads who've got the late call-ups are delighted to be here and I'm sure they will perform to the required level.
"All we're concentrating on is getting something from the first match against England. They have an abundance of quality to choose from with lads in their panel like Nathan Delfounso (Aston Villa), Frank Nouble (West Ham United) along with Spurs duo John Bostock and Dean Parrett, all of whom have played for their first-teams."
McCaffrey is thrilled to hand Harry Crawford a debut international call-up and the young striker outlined his excitement at travelling away to Kiev this week.
"It is a great honour and a really good way for me to end the season," the 18-year-old Londoner told the Southend United official website.
"My grandmother was born in Dublin and my grandfather was also born in Ireland. Hopefully, we can do well and progress to the finals later this year."
Republic of Ireland Under-19 Squad:
Ger Hanley - Mervue United
Ian McLoughlin - Ipswich Town
Richie Towell - Celtic
Johnny Dunleavy - Wolverhampton Wanderers
Andy Boyle - UCD
Sean McGinty - Manchester United
Shaun Timmins - Birmingham City
Shane McEleney - Derry City
Conor Clifford - Chelsea
Conor Henderson - Arsenal
Conor Hourihane - Sunderland
Daniel Kearns - West Ham United
Jimmy Keohane - Wexford Youths
Robbie Brady - Manchester United
Ronan Murray - Ipswich Town
Jamil Adam - Barnsley
Joe Mason - Plymouth Argyle
Harry Crawford - Southend United.
UEFA Under-19 Championship Elite Stage Qualifiers:
Wednesday, May 26
England v Republic of Ireland (12 noon) - FFU Training complex, Kiev
Ukraine v Bosnia-Herzegovina (4pm) - Borex, Borodinka
Friday, May 28
England v Bosnia-Herzegovina (12 noon) - FFU Training complex, Kiev
Republic of Ireland v Ukraine (4pm) - Borex, Borodinka
Monday, May 31
Ukraine v England (4pm) - Borex, Borodinka
Bosnia-Herzegovina v Republic of Ireland (4pm) - FFU Training complex, Kiev.