Sport Soccer

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Doolin draw delight as U-19s avoid big guns

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

PAUL Doolin believes that his Ireland U-19 team got the best group possible for next month's European Championship finals in yesterday's draw.

Ireland will meet hosts Romania, Greece and the Czech Republic in Group A of the tournament, which kicks off on July 20. In doing so they avoided Spain, Turkey, Belgium and the fancied Serbia.

A famous 3-0 win over Italy secured qualification for the competition last month and after overcoming the Italians, Poland and Ukraine in the elite qualifying stage, Doolin's young guns will fear nobody in Bucharest.

"If you look at Group B (Serbia, Turkey, Spain, Belgium), to be honest, if you asked me which group I'd have preferred I'd have said this one," the former Drogheda United boss revealed from the Romanian capital yesterday.

"But we have to play the hosts and they haven't had any qualifying so I'd imagine it will be a good atmosphere. I don't know a lot about them -- our homework starts here.

"The lads played the Czech Republic at U-17 level, while our U-17s played Greece this year. I'll have to start getting some DVDs together. We'll be targeting the first game -- we did that in Poland and it worked out for us.

"Greece were one of only two nations out of the seven elite stage groups to finish with a maximum nine points from their three games. Czech Republic will be a decent side too and have a great record at underage level."

A big concern for Doolin will be the effect of the Romanian heat during a competition that takes place in late July and August.

Greece and the hosts will be more used to the hot temperatures and the Ireland manager is hoping he will be able to organise a warm-weather training camp before the tournament kicks off.

"At the moment it's warm and I'm told it will be 35 degrees in July," he said. "It will be a big factor. The likes of Greece, Spain, Serbia and Romania will be more used to that.

"We will have to prepare for that. The games will be in the evening but it will still be warm. We'll just have to cope.

"My plan is to stage a pre-tournament training camp somewhere warm abroad to help the players acclimatise to the hot conditions they can expect to face."

Irish Independent

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