Squad Profile: Ireland under 19s for the UEFA Euro 2011 Qualifiers
After successfully negotiating their way through the first stage of the UEFA Euro 2011 Qualifiers last week, the Republic of Ireland under-17s have a well-deserved international break until next spring’s Elite Stage. However, this week brings another set of qualifiers, and not just the senior side against Russia on Friday. The Ireland under-19s begin their UEFA Euro 2011 Qualifying campaign in Tetevan, Bulgaria on Thursday with three games in five days against Luxembourg, Bulgaria, and Serbia.
This will be new Ireland under 19 manager Paul Doolin’s first game in charge of his new side, and he has already had to make three changes to the 18 man squad for the upcoming games. With Arsenal’s Sean McDermott, Leicester City’s Shane Byrne, and Pat McEleney of Derry City all out through injury, Finn Harps’ Ciaran Gallagher, Chelsea’s Anton Rodgers, and Gary Shaw of Bray Wanderers have all be drafted in.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND UNDER-19 SQUAD
Having agreed a deal last September, Aaron McCarey moved from Monaghan Town to Mick McCarthy’s Wolves in January, and was included on the bench in some of Wolves’ pre-season friendlies. He has yet to appear for the senior side, but goalkeeping coach Pat Mountain has been impressed with what he’s seen of the 18 year old keeper so far, calling McCarey “a good prospect with potential for the future”. McCarey had been second-choice goalkeeper to Arsenal’s Sean McDermott, but will know be expected to take the number 1 jersey, and hopefully can keep a clean sheet as he did in two halves of two separate games against Ukraine last month.
Having made his debut in April 2009 for Finn Harps at the age of seventeen, Gallagher has been the Donegal side’s first-choice ever since. He signed a two-year contract at the start of this season, but it’s only a matter of time before an English or Scottish side comes knocking. Has represented Ireland from under-17 level upwards.
A solid free-kick taker, Declan Walker is a current first teamer for Conference National side Wrexham. He has started four games already this season, after signing a professional contract with the Red Dragons in the summer. He’s a pacy right-back, and likes to get forward. Scored thirteen goals for Wrexham’s youth and reserve sides last season, including a hat-trick in the FA Youth Cup. Played both games against the Ukraine last month, including a full 90 minute run-out to mark his under-19 debut.
The son of the Kerry GAA legend, John Egan junior decided to keep the ball at his feet, and joined Sunderland on a two-year contract in 2009. He’s the joint-captain of the Black Cats’ youth team, and played 14 games for them last season, scoring one goal along the way. Played the full 180 minutes in the matches against Ukraine.
Having represented Ireland at under-18 level, Anthony O’Connor started for the under-19s against Ukraine, and will hope to feature again this weekend. A strong, tall defender, the Corkman is a stylish centre-back. O’Connor was an Academy League regular last season and even made 4 appearances for Blackburn reserves.
Definitely the highest valued player in the Ireland under-19s side, Sean McGinty was signed by Manchester United from Charlton Athletic for an alleged fee of £500,000. He’s a burly centre-back, and is definitely a future Ireland international. Although still only seventeen, McGinty played 21 games for United’s underage side last season. Played 73 minutes against Ukraine last month.
Derby County’s Mark O’Brien is highly rated by the club. Having won Academy Player of the Year in the 2008-09 season, the Dublin-born defender made his full debut as a substitute for the Rams against Watford in the final game of the season. He was also awarded the Republic of Ireland under 16 Player of the Year for 2008. He had to undergo heart surgery in October 2009, keeping him out of action for a few months, but has already returned to the senior Derby County side, and came on as a substitute against Barnsley. His older brother Jamie (20) is a midfielder for Bradford.
Another player in the Irish under-19 squad whose name may be familiar is Everton’s Shane Duffy. Having represented Northern Ireland from under-16 to under-21 level and also for the Senior B team, Duffy decided to change allegiances to the Republic of Ireland. The IFA took the FAI to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but the CAS ruled in Duffy and the Rep of Ireland’s favour. He’s played three games for Everton’s senior side, including the full 90 minutes against BATE Borisov in last season’s Europa League. Back in action for Everton reserves after a life-threatening injury during training with Ireland. Set to make his first competitive appearance for his new national side this week.
The Reading left-back captained Ireland’s under-17s earlier this year, and will be hoping to make the step up to the under-19s side. Most likely to be a substitute, but has already featured for Reading reserves this season, after making his debut last year. A regular for Reading’s Academy side, he scored a splendid equaliser against Arsenal just two weeks ago for the under 18 side.
Started both games against the Ukraine, Horgan is a key player for Salthill Devon in the First Division of the Airtricity League. The midfielder helped the side win promotion from the Newstalk A Championship and was a regular first-teamer this season. Also represented Ireland U-18 Schools side earlier this year, scoring against Australia.
Another future Ireland star, Rodgers is Ireland’s only current Chelsea Academy player. He’s made the step up to the Academy League from schoolboys level, and has been a regular for Chelsea’s under-18 side this season. Has played for Ireland up to under-17 level, and will be hoping to win his first cap for the under-19s in Bulgaria.
Having signed for League of Ireland side Dundalk from Glasgow Celtic in pre-season, Stephen McDonnell had a fine introduction to Irish soccer, playing 9 league games, 2 European games, and even getting off the mark with his first goal against rivals Drogehda United in a 2-1 victory in July. Won this year’s Republic of Ireland Under-17 Player of the Year.
A regular for both Derby County Academy and Reserve sides, central midfielder Jeff Hendrick was an unused substitute in the Rams’ last game of 2009-10, and will be hoping to build on that this season. The Dubliner has lined out for Ireland from under-16 level up, and played 115 minutes for Ireland under-19s in the two games against Ukraine.
The Bolton Wanderers midfielder made his first start for Ireland under-19s against Ukraine last month and played 110 minutes total in the two matches. Unlike his well-decorated father, 56-time Ireland international Denis Irwin, Liam plays as a midfielder. Born on Christmas Day in 1992, Irwin junior lists “family” as the biggest impact on his career, and is a second year scholar at Bolton Academy, where he was a mainstay in their team last season.
Once of Sky One’s Football’s Next Star, Craig Walsh is currently at Longford Town after coming third on the TV show. Signed for Longford from Shamrock Rovers, where he was a regular for their underage sides. Has since played senior football with Longford Town, and will hope for more opportunities next season. Played two halves for Ireland under-19s against Ukraine.
A late call-up to the squad, Shaw will be hoping to take any chance he is given. One of the best young strikers in the League of Ireland, the 18 year old signed for Bray Wanderers from Newbridge Town, and got off to a great start, scoring against Dundalk on his debut. He also went on to score against Galway United, and made five league appearances this season. Has appeared for Ireland schoolboys at under-18 level, but if he plays, this will be his first cap in a proper competitive fixture.
Another marquee name in Ireland under-19s side, Robert Brady’s best achievement to date was winning the 2009 Milk Cup and scoring five goals for Manchester United in the tournament. A very quick left winger, Brady often operates as a striker for Ireland and is often compared to a young Ryan Giggs, and has even been likened to George Best. Signed for United from St. Kevin’s Boys in Dublin.
Another St. Kevin’s player, except this time from the Tipperary side rather than the Dublin one, Michael Rafter signed a professional contract with Colchester United in the summer. However, the club and the player have since terminated the contract by mutual consent. United boss John Ward agreed to cancel the player’s contract so he could return home. “We have released Michael by mutual consent as of today,” said Ward.” He came to me recently and requested that we could cancel his contract. From what I understand, he is likely to go back to Ireland and we have not retained his registration, so he is free to start his career afresh somewhere else.” Rafter has represented Ireland from under-15 level and started up front alongside Ryan Connolly in one of the Ukraine games last month, coming on as a half-time substitute in the other.