Release Date: 28/10/2007
Author: By Gareth Steen
MAL Donaghy’s Under 19 squad are in Cyprus where they will play against Austria, Slovakia and hosts Cyprus in European Championship Qualifiers.
Mal has been dealt a blow by the withdrawal of Manchester United player Craig Cathcart but is concentrating on using the time he has before next Tuesday's opener against Austria to get the hard work ethic drilled into his squad.
"Unfortunately Craig Cathcart has pulled out of the squad, which is disappointing for me. Craig wants to concentrate on his position in Antrim with the team there and therefore and unfortunately hasn't made himself available," he said.
"We had a build up game against the Swiss last month and then more recently we had a training camp in England at their National Sports Centre where we worked with a group of 22 players. So it has been a tough job narrowing the squad down to 18," he said.
Mal knows from his experience both as a player and his time as a coach that his team will have to work collectively to get results and by taking the similar approach as the senior side by fighting for each other in order to be a success.
"In my experience both as a player for the National team and as coach of the under 19s is that everyone has to their fair shift and pull together as a unit, it is a collective thing rather than an individual thing.
Any success that Northern Ireland have it's through hard work and that is what we are going to focus on because that it the way we usually get our results. So that is what I will be drilling home to the players prior to our opening game against Austria next Tuesday," he added.
The Under 19s opening game is against Austria on Tuesday before playing Slovakia on the Thursday and then finishing up against host Cyprus on the Sunday, Mal is focusing on his own sides preparation rather than studying the opposition.
"We have played Austria and Slovakia in the past and we know what they are all about and what style they will play against us, but I would prefer to dwell on what we are going to do rather than the opposition are going to do to us. Come next Tuesday we will be fully prepared for the first game of the tournament," he said.
These Euro Qualifiers will bring valuable experiences to the young squad something that Mal sees as part and parcel of their football education.
"This tournament is part of the football education for the under 19s, obviously the nucleus of our squad has come from the under 17s and for these boys to step up the their next challenge at this level is the next part of their education."
"One or two of our side has already featured for the under 21 side, which is a good sign. So hopefully that trend will continue and I would like to think that the majority of our squad will go onto play for the under 21 side and then hopefully represent the senior side, which is basically what it is all about," he said
Mal will be hoping that his young squad can develop into senior internationals for the future by following in the footsteps of the likes of Sammy Clingan and Chris Brunt who have made the step up to the senior side in recent years and their recent performance in Sweden was pleasing when another former youth player - Kyle Lafferty scored that stunning equalizer.
"We try to provide the players with the platform to go on and play at under 21 level and it fills me with inspiration to see lads that have played for the under 19s and then go on become stars at senior level, the likes of Sammy Clingan and Chris Brunt and Kyle Lafferty have all played at under 19 level and it is great for me to see them progress into the senior team and doing so well, particularly with the result we had against the Swedes last week," he concluded.
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