Ireland's Under 17 team gears up for European Championship kick-off against Poland

Head Coach Colin O'Brien

Head Coach Colin O'Brien Credit: FAI

The Irish Under-17 football team is set to face Poland in their opening game of the UEFA European U17 Championships in Hungary tomorrow, a match that will be broadcast live on RTÉ. Colin O'Brien, the Head Coach, has confirmed his squad, with a significant majority of the 20-man team hailing from the EA SPORTS LOI Academy.

This marks the fourth time O'Brien has spearheaded an Irish team to the European Championships, and it's Ireland's first appearance since 2019, when they hosted the tournament. The Irish MU17s were drawn in Group A, with subsequent games against Wales on May 20 and hosts Hungary on May 23.

The team, based in Budapest for the tournament, enters the competition in good form. Earlier this season, they defeated the Netherlands in a friendly match via a penalty shootout, and successfully navigated Round One of qualifiers with a victory over Armenia and draws against Belarus and Norway. During the Elite Phase, they held Italy to a draw before triumphing over Ukraine.

A critical 3-2 win against hosts Cyprus, thanks to a last-gasp 96th-minute winner from Nickson Oksoun, secured Ireland's place in the finals. The 2023 edition of the U17 EUROs offers an additional incentive: the four semi-finalists and the best-performing quarter-finalist will secure spots for the U17 World Cup.

The opening match will take place at the Hidegkuti Nándor Stadium in Budapest, kicking off at 3.30pm Irish time. The referee team will be led by Atilla Karaoglan of Turkey, with assistance from Mehmet Emin Tugral, Kyriakos Sokratous of Cyprus, and fourth official David Dickinson from Scotland.

Fresh from featuring for their clubs last Friday, Mason Melia and Romeo Akachukwu joined the squad over the weekend. Melia, having made a league appearance for St. Patrick's Athletic in the 3-0 win over Drogheda United, holds the distinction of being the youngest player to do so for the club.

Head Coach Colin O'Brien expressed his confidence in the team, remarking, "The Irish fans will definitely see a group of players who are proud to play for their country. There's a real togetherness within the squad and I believe we have quality throughout the team but it will be a huge group effort once you go into a tournament."

Echoing O'Brien's sentiments, forward Nickson Okosun conveyed the team's excitement about the upcoming competition, stating, "All the boys are really excited. None of us are taking this for granted. For me and my family, it's a proud moment."