THE Republic of Ireland Men’s U17s return to Cork this week as they face three key UEFA European Championship Qualifiers at Turner’s Cross.
The young Boys in Green take on Andorra tonight followed by North Macedonia on Sunday and Poland next Wednesday in the first round of qualification.
Each game will be held at the Cross with tickets priced at €5 for adults and €1 for kids/students/OAPs.
Manager Colin O’Brien, who is a former City player, of course, was delighted to see close to 1,000 fans attend his side’s impressive 2-1 victory against a strong Mexico squad last month.
There should be a strong Cork interest in this Irish team as City’s Franco Umeh and Mark O’Mahony scored the goals that evening while Cathal Heffernan captained the side and Liam Murray featured in the second friendly with the Mexicans, which ended in a 2-0 defeat.
And O’Brien is again calling on local fans to come out in numbers to support his exciting young team.
“The players were speaking after the win over Mexico about just how much the crowd encouraged them and got behind them and I think that shows just how vital the supporters can be during a game,” he said.
“These are three big games that set up our season and I’m sure the Irish fans will be there to get behind this young and exciting Ireland team.”
Ireland will be looking to begin this qualification round with a win against Andorra tonight (7pm) as they look to progress to the Elite round next spring and move one step closer to the tournament itself in Israel next summer.
“The objective is to qualify, yeah, but we have to really make sure the players don’t get caught up in the occasion because they are playing at home - especially the Cork lads - and that they’re not overawed by that,” admitted O’Brien.
“That was a great plus having the opportunity to play two preparation games against Mexico about a month ago but the first game is the most important one and we will take it from there.
“There will be three different challenges. Tournament football… It's a rollercoaster basically once you hit the first game.
“It’s real competition now for the players, it’s meaningful, and it has a purpose. It’s an U17 Euro qualification campaign, it’s going to be the first experience for them at this age group and level.
“We always say it to the players, you can only play international European tournaments at 17s, 19s, 21s, and senior so it’s a huge opportunity.”