The only goal of the game came 13 minutes in after Steve Cooper’s side put together a sustained period of pressure. Jadon Sancho eventually found space 30 yards out and unleashed a stunning strike that found the top corner of Brian Maher’s net.
In a pulsating encounter in searing heat, Colin O’Brien’s side battling throughout but couldn’t find a crucial equaliser as Ireland’s campaign came to a heartbreaking end.
Speaking to FAI.ie after the game, Head Coach Colin O’Brien heaped praise on his Under 17 squad. “I’m very proud of all the players and staff,” he said. “Everybody played as a team. We knew it was going to be a tough game and we knew we’d have to concede possession for long periods. England are a high quality team that I expect to go far in this competition.
“Defensively we were far better. Our boys are after getting huge experience from these finals. It’s the furthest Ireland have reached in a long time. We had six players in that squad that are underage again next year that have got huge experience. The older guys go onto the Under 18 side now and I’ve no doubt some will push into the Under 19s, that can only be good for our players going forward for European competitions.
Following a heavy defeat to Germany on Wednesday, the performance of O’Brien’s side against England illustrated the quality within this squad particularly when Joe Redmond was denied an equaliser with eight minutes remaining as his volleyed effort was cleared off the line.
“There is great character in this squad, it’s been there all season,” O’Brien continued. “Sometimes players just need a wake up call and that was the game against Germany without a doubt. Today they showed that by working as a team, by understanding how you have to set up as a team defensively against high quality, what you have to sacrifice. They did that to a man today and we stayed in the game right until the death.
The defeat signalled the end of a 10 game campaign, with Ireland winning seven of those matches to get to the quarter final stage. Overall, O’Brien has been pleased with what the squad has achieved this season.
“We’ve got the maximum out of our season. That was one of the objectives at the start of the year. People might not realise that we’ve got to get out of two qualifying campaigns just to get to the finals and they are very tricky assignments.
“For us to get to a European finals, we are a small nation, we don’t have a huge pick, we have to be realistic when we are playing bigger nations. To get the opportunity to play some of the countries we’ve played in the last couple of weeks has been great for our players’ future and that’s really important.”
England: 1. Bursik (GK), 2. Eyoma, 3. Gibson, 4. McEachran, 5. Guehi (C), 6. Panzo, 7. Foden, 8. Oakley-Boothe, 9. Brewster, 10. Hudson-Odoi, 11. Sancho
Republic of Ireland: 1. Maher (GK), 3. Ledwidge, 5. Collins, 7. Nolan, 15. Redmond; 4. Doherty, 6. Bolger, 15. O’Farrell (9. Roache 65’); 8. Thompson, 10. Idah, 11. Connolly