FIVE Cork and Rockmount lads were part of Gerry Davies’ Irish amateur squad who qualified for the UEFA Regions Cup finals next summer.
Brendan O'Connell, Luke Casey, Nathan Broderick, Adam Crowley and Eóin Murphy all played their part in ensuring qualification was secured with a game to spare.
They kicked off their campaign with a 2-0 triumph over San Marino on Tuesday and then followed with a comprehensive 4-0 victory over Romania which placed them top of the group.
Ireland required Bulgaria to drop points against San Marino in the group's other fixture and when they drew 1-1 it confirmed Gerry Davis' side's spot at the tournament.
This meant Ireland qualified with a game to spare however that certainly didn’t stop them from wanting a clean sweep and Monday’s victory over Bulgaria made it three wins from three.
Eóin Murphy scored two in the campaign with an assist from club team-mate Nathan Broderick while Luke Casey also got on the scoresheet and skipper Brendan O’Connell was immense throughout and the final game of the campaign on Monday was his 75th cap. A proud moment for him and his family and he now looks forward to next year's finals.
“It was great to receive my 75th cap on Monday,” said O’Connell. "We had a great 12 days in Bulgaria and it was fantastic to get three wins from three.
“Preparation leading into the first game was meticulous. We landed in Bulgaria three days before the first kick-off and in those three days, we trained five times.
“Manager Gerry Davis and Chris McDonnell [also with Shamrock Rovers] drilled a game plan into us on how best to deal with the opposition.
“We had recovery sessions every day in the Black Sea in order to stay fresh because it was a gruelling timetable.
“We were thrilled to qualify with a game to spare and everyone’s hard work paid dividends. The Rockmount lads played a huge part with Luke Casey scoring against San Marino and Eóin 'Chalkie' Murphy scored in both games. Nathan Broderick and Adam Crowley played a part in both games also.
“It’s a relief to get qualified and now we’re looking forward to the finals next June. It was a fantastic experience for the other four lads who were part of this setup for the first time and I have no doubt the experience has given them huge hunger to do well next summer.”
Eóin Murphy was thrilled with his contribution and can’t wait to get another chance to represent his country.
“It was an absolutely fantastic experience and superb 12 days in Bulgaria,” said Murphy. "To put on the green jersey of my country is an unbelievable feeling and I cannot wait to do so again.
"We got three wins from three and it was mainly down to hard work and an overall superb team effort. I was delighted to get on the scoresheet twice and to play at this level with so many of my club teammates was brilliant. It was also great to have my dad there watching and for him to see me score twice for my country was as proud for him as it was for me.
“It’s great to see how well the lads on the team from so many different clubs across the country have gelled so well. I think that’s very evident in how we play as a team and I think that bond will be key to how we perform in the finals.
"It’s certainly a huge bonus for us having so many lads from Rockmount. It allows you relax that little bit more as you are comfortable with each other both on and off the pitch and that’s a massive help.
“It’s a great feeling having qualified for the finals next summer and the preparations will start soon which I look forward to."