U17 star Furlong taking things in stride ahead of Ireland's crucial European championship clash
IT’S been an eventful couple of weeks in the life of 16-year-old Dubliner James Furlong.
He made his Shamrock Rovers senior debut away to Dundalk before linking up with the Ireland squad for the European U17 Championships.
And the left back was namechecked by Ireland senior manager Mick McCarthy as the player that impressed him in Monday’s dramatic 1-1 draw with the Czech Republic.
His 88th minute corner in Waterford led to the equaliser from Andrew Omobamidele that has increased the hosts’ chances of progression to the quarter finals.
They still have a lot of work to do to progress. A win against a fancied Belgian side in Tallaght tonight will definitely put them through to the quarter finals.
Furlong - a transition year student in CBC Monkstown - is taking it all in his stride.
Sixteen members of O’Brien’s squad are already playing their football overseas, but the Foxrock native is enjoying life at home.
"It’s going very well for me with club and country at the moment so it’s just about pushing on and keeping going," he says, adding that the demanding test on the artificial pitch in Oriel Park was very different to the pace of the international tournament which places more emphasis on skill.
There were supportive words from senior manager Stephen Bradley and sporting director Stephen McPhail before this experience.
"Before the Dundalk game, they were just telling me that I’m good eneough and they gave me confidence," continued Furlong, who came through the ranks with St Joseph’s Boys before joining the Hoops.
"I already had confidence in myself but they kept pushing me on. Then, after the game, they said they were very happy with my performance and wished me the best of luck in the Euros. They were very positive about me."
The Irish team are looking ahead with a positive mindset even though suspensions to Festy Ebosele and Conor Carty have made the Belgian task all the more difficult.
Still, Furlong is taking heart from how the team responded to the setback of falling behind against the Czechs. They played their best football from that position and that took a bit of character considering they were on a low ebb going into that fixture following the heartbreak of a late concession in the 1-1 draw with the Greeks.
"The decisions and the suspensions, you just have to get on with it," said Furlong. "This is what happens in tournament football. There are players who have been chomping at the bit in training, and when they come in they’ve got to do the job for the team and look forward to the opportunity.
"You can go behind in games but even if that happens, you’ve got to keep your head and stick to the gameplan. That’s what happened on Monday and we came back strongly with a set piece that he’d worked on. It shows you’ve got to keep your head and keep going because there’s always going to be ups and downs."