The European Championship journey is over. Our Republic of Ireland U19 side went down to a 4-0 semi-final defeat by holders Portugal in the heat of Armenia this Wednesday afternoon.
Ireland went into the match as very much the underdogs, a situation compounded by the absence through suspension of two of their leading lights, captain Lee O’Connor and striker Jonathan Afolabi.
As ever, the Irish players gave all they had but Portugal were quite simply much the better side and fully deserved their victory.
There clearly will be much disappointment within the camp but they should walk tall as their efforts against the background of so many players being withheld by their clubs made an already challenging competition even more daunting.
Ten members of the squad are eligible again next year with four of those also eligible for the following year.
Goalkeeper Brian Maher captained the side this afternoon in the absence of Lee O’Connor and could do little about the goals that beat him. Centre backs Oisin McEntee and Mark McGuinness battled gamely and are both eligible next year. The sixteen year olds, Matt Everitt and Joe Hodge, both offer much hope for the future as does another sixteen year old Festy Ebosele, a 42nd minute substitute this afternoon.