Sunday, May 30, 2010
Conor Clifford still hopefull of making UEFA u19 finals
Ireland U19 captain, Conor Clifford has backed his team to defy all of the odds and reach this summer's UEFA Championship finals in France as they complete their UEFA Championship, elite qualifying phase with a game against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday in Kiev. Ireland must defeat Bosnia & Herzegovina by four goals or more and hope that reigning European Champions, Ukraine defeat England 1-0 in the other game in group 3 to ensure qualification for the ‘Boys in Green.'
Sean McCaffrey's side were defeated 1-0 by England in the group's opening game while they bounced back to stun reigning European Champions, Ukraine with a 1-0 victory in Kiev last Friday. Bosnia & Herzegovina have struggled in group 3 to date with a 4-1 defeat to Ukraine which was followed up with a 4-0 defeat to England.
Chelsea star, Clifford said, "Qualification to this summer's finals is very much alive. Obviously we are relying on Ukraine doing us a favour in the final game but none of us are thinking about that - we are just concentrating on getting the result we need against Bosnia & Herzegovina. I think that getting an early goal will be vital in settling the team into the game. That would put the opposition under pressure and hopefully force a few errors. The Bosnian team haven't had the easiest time of it over here, they haven't come here to make up the numbers, they will be playing for pride and will want to go back home with points on the board," he said.
Clifford added, "In my opinion, Ukraine have an excellent chance in their game against England. Let's not forget that they are the current champions and they will be hoping to advance to the finals in front of their own supporters. They are a strong, physical side and they are very capable of taking the ball down and playing it around on the ground. There are a lot of twists and turns left in this group yet, be sure of that. Our result against England was a major set-back for all of the players and the staff in the team. We firmly believed that we should have least got a positive result in that game but that disappointment really spurred us on for the second game against Ukraine. The lads were fantastic, we all worked for each other on the field and to get a win against all the odds, especially with ten men was indescribable."
Chelsea's Youth captain, Clifford has been in instrumental form for club and country this season which he capped with the winning goal for Chelsea in the FA Youth Cup final against Aston Villa, "At the beginning of the season, I wrote down all of my goals that I wanted to achieve at Chelsea this year and thankfully they were all achieved. I started every game for the reserve team and to finish the season lifting the FA Youth Cup in front of all my family and friends at Stamford Bridge was an unbelievable achievement. That being said, that feat might be overshadowed if we were to qualify for this summer's UEFA Championship. A couple of the players here have already experienced the UEFA Championship finals at U17 level and it is something we want to repeat. Every player wants to experience the high intensity and the huge crowds associated with the finals and we will ensure that we are in a position to rely on Ukraine's result against England in the final game, which will hopefully see us through to the finals.
Clifford added, "Most of the players in this squad have been playing together for a number of years at international level with some notable success, especially at U17 level. Unfortunately, we have had to deal with a large number or withdrawals due to injury and players with other commitments. I believe that if we had a full squad we would have qualified but we can still do it. This is a great group of players who have been together for a number of seasons under Sean McCaffrey and his staff which has been very enjoyable. It would be a fitting tribute for everybody involved to finish the season with an unprecedented place at this European finals," he said.
Republic of Ireland Under-19 Squad:
Ger Hanley - Mervue United
Ian McLoughlin - Ipswich Town
Richie Towell - Celtic
Johnny Dunleavy - Wolverhampton Wanderers
Andy Boyle - UCD
Sean McGinty - Manchester United
Shaun Timmins - Birmingham City
Shane McEleney - Derry City
Conor Clifford - Chelsea
Conor Henderson - Arsenal
Conor Hourihane - Sunderland
Daniel Kearns - West Ham United
Jimmy Keohane - Wexford Youths
Robbie Brady - Manchester United *
Ronan Murray - Ipswich Town
Harry Crawford - Southend United.
Stephen McDonnell - Dundalk
Karl Sheppard - Galway United