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Waterford FC’s Darryl Walsh is currently out in Croatia as part of the Republic of Ireland U17 squad competing in the UEFA European Under-17 Championships. Speaking with this afternoon, the Portlaw native updated us on his experience of the tournament so far and the mood in the camp going into their final Group match against a formidable Germany side who have already won both of their games to reach the final eight of the tournament. Ireland will be hoping to join Germany in the Quarter Finals but must avoid defeat to stand any chance of progressing.

Having played in Cyprus in the previous Elite Stage qualifiers where Ireland topped the group to make it to the Finals in Croatia, Walsh has been suitably impressed with the host country:

“This is my first time in Croatia but the country is lovely and the people have been very friendly which is great. The tournament itself has been very well run which makes it a lot of easier for us with everything well organised. Everything from buses being on time, training grounds prepared and the venues themselves being great – it makes our life easier out here.”

Walsh may be far from home but the Boys in Green haven’t been lacking in support, especially in the small coastal town of Opatija where the squad have set up camp for the tournament:

“There’s been a great Irish support out here; even if we go into town there are Irish flags and jerseys all over the place with the locals all very friendly and supportive. The Irish people have a good reputation around the world and we are known as being friendly ourselves so we have been very well received as well as having some great support over from back home.

“Unfortunately my own parents had to stay at home as my sister is doing her final college exams so the timing wasn’t ideal but hopefully there will be plenty more tournaments again in the future that they can come out to.”

The Irish luck hasn’t been in for this tournament in terms of injuries with a number of players missing out before the tournament while both Darryl and fellow Waterford native Lee O’Connor have had to overcome knocks themselves. Walsh was forced off against Shamrock Rovers U19s in his final domestic game with a leg injury before linking up with the squad but suffered a further set-back out in Croatia. Speaking on the injury, Walsh commented:

“Injury wise it has been a little frustrating for me. One of the first days in training over here I took a knock on my leg again but I was able to take my place on the bench in both games against Serbia and Bosnia and I’ve been working hard individually and rehabbing on my own to get into the best possible shape for Germany tomorrow.

“The timing is unfortunate but that’s something that can happen in football. I need to get it out of my head now and concentrate on the final group game – I’ve been training away and it’s coming on nicely.”

With Ireland needing at least a draw against Germany to stand a chance of making it out of the Group, Walsh outlined the mood in the camp going into this crunch tie:

“Everyone is really excited for the game, we know we have one shot now against Germany to make it through and with the players we have in the group, there’s no reason we can’t go into the game and get something off them, hopefully the three points.

“The surface is meant to be really good as well as the facilities so that’s all we can ask for. We like to think of ourselves as a technically gifted team so the better surface will hopefully be an advantage. We know Germany as well aren’t going to lack in possession either and are a very good technical side. All we can do is work hard, put our heads down and try to grasp the game and see if we can get a result out of it.”

Waterford FC General Manager Paul Cleary presented Darryl Walsh with a framed photo before he headed off to the Euros. Photo Credit: Noel Browne/WFC

Walsh has already been up training with the first team this year at Waterford and made the bench against Cobh Ramblers in the EA SPORTS Cup. With the 2017 season already shaping up to be a positive one for Walsh, the defender has ambitions of pushing on and playing for the first team this year. Walsh reflected:

“I’ve been keeping an eye on the results back home and obviously the lads had a good win on Friday night against Shelbourne and ground out a result which is great. Personally, back home everyone has been great to me and for the town itself, it helps that the club are doing so well this year. Waterford has always been known as a great soccer town and county so it’s great that the supporters are tasting some success again on the pitch.

“Pat (Fenlon) and Alan (Reynolds) have been great for us as players and it’s great to see some young lads getting an opportunity. Obviously on an individual level you’re going to try and set ambitions for yourself, the first team would be great if I could break in this year but even over the last few weeks I’ve been up training with them and made the squad for the cup match against Cobh Ramblers so hopefully before the end of the year I can push on and get some game time.

“Right now though, all I can do is put my head down, keep working away, play to my ability in the U19s and be ready for the step up when the time comes.”

Darryl Walsh and his Irish team-mates take on Germany in their final Group C match tomorrow morning, 11am Irish Time, Live on Eurosport 1 knowing a win would see them into the Quarter Finals. Sitting third going into the game, a draw will be enough if Bosnia overcomes Serbia in the other final Group match. Colin O’Brien’s men however will be targeting the win to send the Irish into the Quarter Finals and extend their Croatia experience.

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