'Myself and the staff are very proud of these players' - Ireland U19 boss Tom Mohan upbeat despite Euro exit
Ireland U19 boss Tom Mohan was concentrating on the positives and looking to the future after seeing his patchwork Irish side’s run at the Under 19 European Championships finally ended by Portugal at the semi-final stage.
With 11 players from the qualification campaign not released by their clubs due to the tournament being held outside an official international window, two ridiculously harsh bookings late in the group stage win over Czech Republic also saw regulars Lee O'Connor and Jonathan Afolabi suspended for the semi-final.
Yet despite seeing his side succumb to a harsh 4-0 defeat, Mohan expressed his pride at how his team handled the experience.
"The most important thing is to look at the bigger picture for Irish football," he told RTE Sport afterwards.
"These boys have experienced a European finals. For some of them this is their third finals after two U17s finals in a row. Some of them even played in the U17 finals earlier this year.
"There’s a lot of positives to come out of it. At the minute it’s sore there’s no doubt but you have to look at the bigger picture."
Ireland were well in the game until conceding a penalty on the half-hour mark. Mohan had no complaints about the award and was delighted with how his team responded in what was their best spell of the game.
After Barry Coffey had seen his shot cleared off the line, Mark McGuinness rattled the crossbar but having missed those chances, Portugal struck again in stoppage time at the end of the half.
"If it’s a penalty, it’s a penalty. We dusted ourselves down well and came back well from it," he continued.
"We’d a couple of really, really good chances. Goals change games, you get a goal it gives you energy, you don’t it sucks the energy a little.
"That’s football, we hit the bar at one end, the ball rolls across the bar at the other end and the centre-forward sticks his head on it. That’s the difference between being one all at half time and two down.
"With 45 minutes to go we gave it everything we had to try and get after them and try to create things. Unfortunately it wasn't to be.
"But right up to the final whistle every player kept going and that showed great spirit. We have to look for the future and I think the future is bright for Irish football. There’s great work going on at grassroots and national league level and with the international teams. We have to build on it."
With Ireland chasing the game in the second half, gaps were always going to open and the impressive Benfica youth Gonçalo Ramos completed his hat-trick with goals in the 59th and 96th minutes to put an unfair sheen on the score. But despite their worst result of the year, Mohan was very satisfied with the season as a whole.
"We've played 10 games this year and won seven, drawn one and lost two. We've lost to two great teams in Portugal and France," he concluded.
"I can’t fault the players, they’re really good lads. When the rawness of this defeat dissipates a bit we'll look back on this tournament as a real positive.
"Myself and all the staff are very proud of these players. Proud to get to the finals but when we got here we had a right go at it and we’ll bring great memories home with us.
"The most important thing for the players is the confidence it gives them going forward, to come and compete against these teams. They’re the most important thing."