| 14.6°C Dublin

Doolin certain Irish U-19s can stand the heat

IRELAND'S U-19 players yesterday experienced the conditions they can expect at this week's European Championship finals when they trained in temperatures of 35 degrees Celsius.

Manager Paul Doolin had primed his charges for action by spending seven days acclimatising in a Rome-based training camp prior to their arrival in Bucharest on Sunday evening.

However, the oppressive heat that greeted them in the Romanian capital -- coupled with humidity levels reaching up to 50pc -- was even worse than expected.

Careful monitoring of hydration levels will be required when Ireland play Greece tomorrow night in the first of their three Group A matches.

Doolin believes the depth of preparation undertaken by the group will go a long way to militating against the effects of the searing sun.

"I knew from the time I came here to Bucharest for the draw last month that the weather would be ferociously hot at this time of year," said Doolin.

"As our game against Greece has a 9.0 kick-off, it's the humidity rather than the temperature that's a factor.

"We coped well with the heat in Poland for the elite qualifying stage in May and one of the main reasons for staging the camp in Italy last week was the warm-weather conditioning it provided for the players.

"It was an ideal week for the squad. If we had assembled in Dublin and come straight to Bucharest to these conditions, it would have been too late to get acclimatised."

During the camp, Doolin enlisted the assistance of Statsports, the Irish fitness company that was involved with the Heineken Cup-winning Leinster rugby squad.

"Nowadays, professional elite players don't get unfit, but the Statsports technology, which uses GPS, was very helpful in monitoring the players' fitness levels over the week," he said.

"The focus since we arrived in Bucharest until the game on Wednesday will be working on tactics rather than fitness."

With no withdrawals from the original 18-player squad he selected, the Irish manager is confident his side can acquit themselves in the group campaign which sees them follow tomorrow's game with an encounter against Czech Republic on Saturday before meeting group hosts Romania this day week.

The top two from the group progress to the semi-finals.

"We had a chat with the group on Saturday and I know they are confident of doing well here. There's no harm in that, as long as it doesn't allow complacency to set in just because we beat Italy 3-0 to confirm qualification," Doolin said.


"The priority is the first match against Greece. If we get a couple of results to qualify for the semi-finals, anything could happen, but that's not what we're thinking about.

"The way I see it is we played three matches in the first phase, three in the elite phase and now we've three more in the finals."

And, it seems, the squad's odyssey has not been overlooked from the top level. During their stay in Rome, a video message was billeted from FAI headquarters to their base with messages of support from the upper echelons.

"Giovanni Trapattoni wished the squad the best of luck in his message. Also on the tape were Glenn Whelan and Stephen Hunt, so that was a nice touch," Doolin added.

Irish Independent