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Hendrick happy to do it Doolin's way

JEFF HENDRICK, the only outfield player to start all seven matches of Ireland's U-19 European Championship campaign so far, is adamant that Paul Doolin's strong principles can keep the team's ambitions on track against a fancied Czech Republic this evening in Mogosoaia (5.0 Irish time).

Wednesday's 2-1 win over Greece in their opening Group A fixture means Ireland can secure one of the two berths from the pool into next Friday's semi-finals should they defeat the Czechs.

Failing that, there will be another opportunity to accrue the three points necessary in next Tuesday's concluding group game against the hosts.

Such is the confidence among the Ireland squad -- who are now on an eight-game unbeaten run stretching all the way back to last November -- that even the prospect of toppling a nation with the Czech Republic's stellar record at all underage levels doesn't faze Hendrick or his team-mates.

The soundbites emerging from the players are in symmetry with Doolin's mantra of being organised and giving little away.

Constructed on a strong defence, seldom do teams open this Irish team up and even the concession of their first competitive goal in four matches against the Greeks left a bad taste in the mouth for Hendrick.

"Just like the Greece game, we'll be tight and compact tonight," said the Dubliner, who played four times for Derby County's first team in the Championship last season. "The goal we conceded on Wednesday was a freak. We weren't expecting it because we were on top after taking an early lead and they scored out of nowhere. Thank God, we came back and won the game.

"We try to do what we're good at, which is moving the ball quickly. That way, we get it wide and create lots of opportunities."

Hendrick's role in Doolin's system is pivotal. The central-midfield lynchpin is the man called upon to calm things down when contests drift into a frenetic phase so undesirable to the Irish boss.

Doolin (pictured below) said: "In the second half against Greece, there was a spell when it seemed to be going end to end, and I don't like when it gets open. There was a period where we didn't really get a grip of the ball.

"When a match gets that open, anything is possible. Maybe against the Czechs, we'll have to keep our shape a little bit better at certain times and settle back down again."

That's why, despite carrying a booking from the Greece fixture into this game, Doolin will start Hendrick for the eighth consecutive time and put great responsibility on him against a Czech team that opened their campaign on Wednesday by beating host nation Romania 3-1.

"The Czechs will be difficult opposition," said the 19-year-old. "We've watched their game against Romania on DVD and they've some very good players.

"But this is a massive opportunity to play in such a big tournament and we'll be confident.

"I know some lads in the squad for years -- I was in the same St Kevin's Boys team as Eoin Wearen from the age of eight and I know Conor Murphy since I was 11.

"The squad has developed with other players coming in over the years."

Doolin, meanwhile, has cautioned his players against complacency, which could naturally creep in from being halfway towards the semi-finals.

"We've got a good start, but we don't want to give any air of being cocky. One game can change everything," warned the manager.

"You can lose a game and still qualify in this tournament. Also, if you win a game it doesn't mean you are through. That's what I've said to the players.

"We enjoyed the victory over Greece and then got back to training and thinking about facing a very good Czech side."

With no major injury concerns, Doolin may opt to keep faith with the starting line-up that served him so well in the win over Greece.

Ireland (probable) -- McCarey (Wolves); Doherty (Wolves), Egan (Sunderland), O'Connor (Blackburn Rovers), Williams (Aston Villa); Murray (Watford), Carruthers (Aston Villa), O'Sullivan (Blackburn Rovers), Hendrick (Derby County), Forde (Wolves); Murphy (Bray Wds).

Ireland v Czech Republic,

Live, Eurosport, 5.0

Irish Independent