Connell announces Women’s Under 17 squad for finals
Drawn into Group B alongside France, Switzerland, and Norway, Connell’s side will be based in Reykjavik as they attempt to secure passage through to the final and then become just the fourth different team to win the tournament.
Unbeaten in six qualifying games, Ireland booked their place in the tournament after finishing as the best runners-up — scoring seven goals and recording five clean sheets — and they possess a talented group of players with huge potential.
Connell has included two uncapped players — defender Jessica Nolan and forward Heather Payne — in his squad following a number of thorough training camps in preparation for Iceland.
“This has probably been the toughest squad that I’ve ever had to pick,” said Connell. “There were basically nine players in contention for the remaining spots, so it was a difficult decision to make and obviously the girls missing out will be disappointed, but two of those are eligible for the Under 17s again next year.”
Connell is moving back into familiar territory having guided the Women’s Under 19 team to the semi-finals of last year’s UEFA European Championships in Norway, so he knows exactly what to expect at the elite level of women’s underage football.
Only the second Ireland Women’s U17 team to qualify for the prestigious tournament — following Noel King’s squad who finished as runners-up in 2010 — this group will go into next week’s first game ready to make the most of their experience.
“It is a huge challenge for us, but we thrive on those challenges and we are looking forward to our first game against France,” said Connell about the task ahead as they depart for Iceland on Saturday.
“We’re hoping to surprise a few people — similar to what we did last year with the Under 19s when we upset some of the favourites and proved that we had a really good team that was worthy of competing at that level.
“We’re hoping that Roma (McLaughlin) and Amanda (McQuillan) can bring their experience of the Under 19s to this tournament, while we’ve had a lot of girls feature in the Continental Tyres Women’s National League. Now, it’s all about dealing with the different scenarios and pressures that come with playing in the finals.
“We’re really looking forward to the tournament and hopefully we can emulate the 2010 squad who reached the final and then go one step further by winning it. If we can do that it would be the perfect ending to what has been a long journey but we’re ready for it.”
Known as the ‘Ice Queens’, this team will be aiming to get off to the best possible start in their opening game with France and progress through to the knockout round.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND WOMEN’S UNDER 17 SQUAD
Goalkeepers: Amanda McQuillan (Raheny United), Nadine Maher (Shelbourne)
Defenders: Fiona Donnelly (Shelbourne), Jamie Finn (Raheny United), Chloe Maloney (Connolly Celtic), Niamh Prior (UCD Waves), Courtney Higgins (Shelbourne), Jessica Nolan (Castlebar Celtic)
Midfielders: Roma McLaughlin (Greencastle), Evelyn Daly (Lakewood), Saoirse Noonan (Douglas Hall), Sophie Watters (Shelbourne), Lucy McCartan (Peamount United, Aislinn Meaney (Lifford)
Forwards: Eleanor Ryan Doyle (Peamount United), Sarah McKevitt (Peakville), Dearbhaile Beirne (Shelbourne),Heather Payne (Salthill Devon)
UEFA European Championship Finals
22/06/2015: Republic of Ireland v France (Korinn, Kopavogur, Iceland; KO 2pm Irish Time)
25/06/2015: Republic of Ireland v Switzerland (Laugardalsvollur, Reykjavik, Iceland; KO 2pm Irish Time)
28/06/2015: Norway v Republic of Ireland (Korinn, Kopavogur, Iceland; KO 2pm Irish Time)