Friday 22 September 2017

Doolin plots path to elite phase as U-19s face Bulgaria

John Fallon

A YEAR on from the starting point of his journey to the U-19 European Championships, Paul Doolin is back in Bulgaria today looking for a repeat.

Doolin ended a nine-year qualification drought by steering Ireland through two mini-groups and into the finals during his first season in charge.

Following today's meeting with the mini-group hosts in Plovdiv (2.0 Irish time), his new bunch of hopefuls have two further games against Bosnia & Herzegovina and Russia in the next four days.

The top two from the four-nation pool advance to the elite qualification phase in the spring.

The Ireland manager has recalled seven members still underage from last season's squad who reached the semi-finals in Romania in July.

Fresh

Of those, Anthony Forde (17) is expected to feature, fresh from his first-team breakthrough for Wolves last month in the League Cup. Graham Burke, who made the bench for Aston Villa recently, is also in line to figure.

From the three domestically based players in the 18-man squad, Dundalk's Carl McHugh could start in central-defence, while Bohemians' Michael Barker is pushing for the right-back slot.

The withdrawal of Millwall's Aidan O'Brien over the weekend meant a late call-up for UCD forward Chris Lyons.

Talk of plotting a route to next July's finals in Estonia is being parked for now by Doolin.

He said: "Each season is different. All three of the nations we're facing over the next six days are strong and will fancy their chances of qualifying.

"Our preparation hasn't been helped by the horrendous state of the training pitch. It was rocky to the point of being dangerous. UEFA agreed with our complaints, but it was too late to change."

Ireland U-19 (probable) -- McDermott (Arsenal); Morrissey (Trieste), Williams (Aston Villa), McHugh (Dundalk), Garmston (West Brom); Murray (Watford), O'Sullivan (Blackburn Rovers), Carruthers (Aston Villa); Burke (Aston Villa), Smith (Watford), Forde (Wolves).

Irish Independent

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