REPUBLIC of Ireland U17 manager Colin O’Brien has praised the quartet of Cork City players that helped the Boys in Green produce two promising performances in their recent friendly games with Mexico at Turner’s Cross.
O’Brien named all four in his starting 11 for the second international friendly with the Mexicans on Tuesday afternoon.
Cathal Heffernan retained his place at the heart of the defence while also continuing in his role as captain and Franco Umeh, who scored the equaliser with a close-range header in the 2-1 win against the same opponents in their first meeting on Sunday night, again started in attack.
Mark O’Mahony netted the winner in front of the Shed not long after emerging from the substitutes bench so he was given the chance to impress from the start while his clubmate Liam Murray made his first appearance of the camp.
“It was brilliant, it is a great milestone for them so young in their career,” insisted O’Brien.
“The two lads scoring on home soil and into the Shed End, I don’t think they will ever forget that but hopefully there is more to come from them.
“I think every player that has come into the squad has worked really hard.
“Cork are doing a lot of good work - like a lot of the national league clubs at the moment - and you can see that in the players with regards to their habits, their training, but there are loads of things they still have to improve in their performance.”
But a brace from striker Alonso Ripoll ensured Mexico won the second game of the double-header 2-0 at the Cross.
Ireland were looking to make it back-to-back triumphs ahead of their UEFA U17 European Championship qualifiers, which also take place on Leeside in October, but Ripoll’s second-half double before a Kevin Zefi penalty miss meant it wasn’t to be.
“We have had a fantastic week,” added O’Brien.
“Mexico are a powerhouse at this age group. Two years ago they were in the World Cup final, they have quick players, explosive with really good actions on the ball so our players got a lot from it.
“There has been a lot of positives. On Sunday coming from a goal down, the team were tested and they deservedly won the match.
“I don’t think today’s game was a 2-0. The players understand that if you make a mistake at this level you will be punished, that’s what they are learning.
“We hit the crossbar, we had a penalty saved, we had the rebound saved so we did make chances which is very encouraging for us. We may not have deserved to win the game but I don’t think we deserved to lose 2-0.”