After the cruel manner in which they crashed out of the U-17 European Championships, Republic of Ireland manager Colin O’Brien had nothing but praise for what he described as an “extraordinary” group of players.
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.
The Dutch won 5-4 after Ireland’s goalkeeper Jimmy Corcoran was cruelly sent off after saving a spot-kick as the referee had decided that he had stepped off his line too soon.
His dismissal meant centre-back Oisin McEntee had to go in goal for Ireland as they were unable to bring in a substitute goalkeeper. The Netherlands scored the retaken spot-kick to progress.
“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.
Colin O’Brien. Pic: Sportsfile
“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.”
Despite the nature of their exit, Ireland captain Nathan Collins was very philosophical in his interview with RTÉ’s Tony O’Donoghue after the game on Monday evening.
Nathan Collins reacting to the referee’s decision to send off Jimmy Corcoran last night. Pic: Inpho
He said: “It is heartbreaking, but I couldn’t be any prouder of the lads, they gave everything they had and that’s all they can do at the end of the day. It just hasn’t come our way today.
O’Donoghue asked the Stoke player how he felt during the penalty shoot-out.
“I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know what to think. When he saved it I was buzzing but then, you know, it’s the ref’s decision, wasn’t it?
“I’m sure their keeper may have come off the line as well but it’s his decision, isn’t it, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
“There’s nothing we can dwell on now, we just move on from it.
“I couldn’t be any prouder. Honestly, they’ve given everything, 100% every game. That’s all we can do.
The FAI Board issued a statement to acknowledge the tremendous effort of the squad and their achievement of reaching the quarter-finals.
The FAI said: “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.
“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.”
– Digital Desk