After the cruelty of crashing out of the UEFA U-17 European Championships in a penalty shoot-out, Colin O’Brien lauded his Republic of Ireland squad for their amazing journey.
O’Brien started the qualifying campaign with the hope of booking a place at this year’s finals in England and that is exactly what happened as his team won all six qualifiers across the Qualifying & Elite Rounds.
At the tournament, Ireland suffered a set-back by losing to Belgium in their opening game before overcoming Denmark and Bosnia & Herzegovina to seal passage through to the knock-out stages.
In their quarter-final clash with the Netherlands, Troy Parrott equalised to force a 1-1 draw and bring the game into a penalty shoot-out, which saw the Dutch win 5-4 after goalkeeper Jimmy Corcoran was sent off.
Yet, O’Brien had nothing but praise for what he described as an ‘extraordinary’ group of players.
“The overall feeling that I have is immense pride. To consider that this squad of players only lost one game in regular play from 10 competitive games and reached the quarter-finals of the UEFA European Championships is quite incredible,” said O’Brien.
“The players represented their country with great honour. They played good football, maintained a professional attitude throughout, and bounced back whenever things didn’t quite work out. They bowed out of the tournament with a lot of dignity.
“It’s now time for the players to reflect on this journey and move on with their club careers. I’m sure they will be aiming to break into the Under-19 squad next term and, on this showing, they have every chance of extending their international careers.
“It was a fantastic experience to work with this group of players, as well as the backroom staff, and I’m really proud of what they achieved.”
The FAI Board issued a statement to acknowledge the tremendous effort of this squad and their achievement of surpassing some of Europe’s elite teams by reaching the quarter-finals.
“It is a credit to Colin O’Brien and his squad of players that they performed so admirably in this year’s UEFA Under-17 European Championships – only missing out cruelly in a penalty shoot-out,” read a statement.
“This is the second year in a row that Colin has led a team to the quarter-finals of this competition and he deserves every plaudit that comes his way. So too do the players who continually defied the odds in qualification and turned on the style at the finals.
“As we prepare to host this tournament in Ireland next year we look forward to seeing Colin lead another squad of players forward for what will be a fantastic opportunity to showcase Irish football as a whole.
“For the players who performed so magnificently in this year’s tournament, we hope that they go on to wear the green Ireland jersey with pride at other levels as they progress with their careers.”