October 2019 may well prove to be a seminal month in the history of Irish football. A bright beginning on a Tallaght Thursday night to a mournful conclusion six days later in Geneva could have negative repercussions for the future. Six matches, two for each of our U19, U21 and Senior sides, resulted in two draws and four defeats with not a single goal in sight.
Our U19 side went down to 1-0 and 2-0 defeats by Denmark in two friendly encounters played in Sligo. (Those Danes have really become quite a pain!). These contests were of an exploratory nature for Head Coach Tom Mohan who utilised 24 players as he prepares for the qualifying stage of the 2020 European Championships. Mohan and his teams have been excellent in recent years and one is hopeful that we will continue that trend when we travel to Austria next month where Gibraltar and Switzerland (sounds familiar) will complete qualifying Group Ten.
In their three opening contests of the qualifying stage for the 2021 European U21 Championship Finals, our team under the guidance of Stephen Kenny garnered three victories and were excellent. The scoreless draw with top seeds Italy in Tallaght last week was also a very fine performance. We are designated as fourth seeds in a very competitive Group One and our disappointing loss to hosts Iceland on Tuesday, courtesy of a penalty kick, has thrown something of a spanner in the works. The promotion of Aaron Connolly to the senior squad, coupled with the injury absence of Jonathan Afolabi and the suspension of Troy Parrott, was significant despite the inclusion of Adan Idah and Michael Obafemi, both of whom have been on Premier League duty with their respective clubs in recent weeks. We now face two crucial November contests, first travelling to Armenia before entertaining Sweden in Tallaght Stadium. Afolabi and Parrott should be available but defender Lee O’Connor will miss the Yerevan trip as a result of his dismissal in Reykjavik.
Mick McCarthy‘s senior side remain in contention to qualify for the 2020 European Championship Finals, three matches of which are scheduled for Dublin next June. The immediate qualification option comes at the Aviva Stadium on Monday the 18th November 2019 when those pesky Danes again visit Dublin. A first victory in the last five meetings with the Danes would secure a European Championship Finals place, something of a fiscal necessity given our current financial position. Should things not go as wished, there remains a get-in clause involving another potential pair of qualifiers for those sides finishing third in their qualifying Groups.
Forget October, we may yet see November as the real seminal month for Irish football.