Republic of Ireland under 19 manager Tom Mohan played his part in the senior team’s drive to the last 16, but unfortunately it didn’t see him getting to soak up any French ambience.
“We had a lot of match analysis and looking at teams down the line to do so we didn’t get out, but that’s part and parcel of it,” said the Aghadrumsee man of his role in Martin O’Neill’s back room team.
While he might have been immersed in the nuts and bolts of things Mohan is enough of a big picture guy to appreciate just how significant the past few weeks have been for Irish football.
“It’s great how the team did. It gives young players hope, they see young players like Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick doing well and it inspires them. Irish football always needs heroes, Roy Keane, Robbie Keane, Paul McGrath, boys like that and thanks to these Europeans we have heroes for the next generation.
I think it brilliant how the North have gone too and especially when you consider our own role in it. It’s a great achievement to have three Fermanagh boys in the squad.”
Nevertheless, with the Republic now facing the prospect of changing of the guard with the likes of John O’Shea, Robbie Keane, Shay Given and others likely to hang up the boots, Mohan now occupies a crucial position in the national set-up, as one of those charged with unearthing the next generation of Irish stars. The Fermanagh man feels confident that the talent is there to keep Ireland contending for qualification for major championships.
“There’s a lot of good young players coming through over this last number of years. Development of young players is an important aspect of any club or country. I feel that we’ve a lot of very good young players breaking into clubs across the water.
“Of the [young] boys that are there [in the senior squad] a lot of them have excelled, Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick, Seamus Coleman, James McCarthy really came into his own. I think if you’ve young players coming along they’ll be going into a very good group of players at the moment high in confidence after the Europeans.
“Take for example Jack Byrne at Man City, Jack spent a season in Ireland before moving over to Blackburn Rovers, there’s Darragh Lenihan at Blackburn Rovers, you’ve got Alan Browne whose playing first team football with Preston North End, you look at Callum O’Dowda who was on the under 21 squad and trained with the senior squad prior to going away to the Belarus game. Those lads are late teens, early 20s so there’s a number of good players in that age range.”
For now Mohan’s immediate priority is the upcoming u-19 European qualification which gets underway in earnest in October.
“Boys are back in pre-season now and the League of Ireland break is over so it’ll be a busy period going to watch players here and the lads that are over in England.
“We’ll be organising training camps over the summer in preparation for a friendly in September against Austria and then we’ve got European Qualifiers in early October. Everything now is geared towards the autumn.”