Wednesday 21 August 2019

France hold no fears for Festy Ebosole as he aims to take centre stage for Ireland U19s

Festy Ebosele. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Festy Ebosele. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

John Fallon

Festy Ebosele wasn't dazzled by big names when choosing his professional club, so he's unlikely to be nervous about facing the might of France tonight.

Tom Mohan will have the pacey winger available for the second match of Ireland's European U-19 Championship campaign after he recovered from an unwelcome bug that visited the team hotel in Yerevan at the weekend.

Ireland made a recovery of their own in Monday's opener against Norway, battling back to claim a 1-1 draw, but Mohan could do with reinforcements for the most testing tie of the group stage at the Banants Stadium (6.0 Irish time).

Ebosele's progression from local Enniscorthy club Moyne Rangers to St Joseph's Boys soon caught the attention of cross-channel scouts.

Manchester United and Chelsea were among his admirers but he took an alternative route.

"I had a dilemma when there were some big clubs interested but they're only big names," he reasons. "I decided to sign for Derby County because I think there's a better chance to progress there."

His trip to Armenia is a reminder of how such an approach fared well for a former apprentice at the Rams.

"Jeff Hendrick was at Derby when he played at these U-19 finals," he says in reference to Ireland's last appearance at the showpiece in 2011.

"It shows how big this tournament is. Jeff progressed from here to have a great career and I'm hoping to do the same."


France don't expect the Irish to stand in their way of securing a tenth straight semi-final appearance at this tournament with a game to spare. Such confidence is reflected in their strength in depth.

Within their ranks are two defenders, Benoît Badiashile and Giulian Biancone, who played for Monaco in last season's Champions League group stages. They left out their top scorer in qualifying, Wilson Isidor, from Monday's 3-0 stroll over Czech Republic.

In contrast, Ebosele is part of a quartet promoted from the Ireland U-17 squad.

"I was first with the U-19s for the elite qualifiers in March and really benefited from stepping up to work with older players," he said.

"We came into the tournament with six straight wins in qualifying so we don't fear any team."

Contesting their second game in four days means Mohan is poised to make changes. Kameron Ledwidge will likely revert to full-back from the left wing, creating a vacancy for either Ebosele or Tyreik Wright.

Aston Villa teen Wright missed Monday's opener due to suspension.

Ireland v France, Live, RTÉ2, 5.45

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