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Delaney saga won't distract my side: Colin


U17s manager Colin O'Brien

U17s manager Colin O'Brien


U17s manager Colin O'Brien

Colin O'Brien hopes that the focus will be on the players in his Ireland U17 squad, and not on the presence or absence of John Delaney in the stands, when the European Championship finals kick off this week.

But fears were raised that Ireland could lose Tottenham starlet Troy Parrott due to an injury picked up last night.

For the first time since 1994, Ireland have been granted the rights to host the U17 tournament, 16 nations playing in seven venues across the country, from Longford to Dublin, down to Bray and Waterford.

Boss O'Brien had hoped to get permission from Spurs to include talented forward Parrott, discussions between the FAI and Spurs conducted over recent days, but the fact that he was stretchered off in the second half of an U23 game between Spurs and Derby County only last night is likely to rule him out.

Parrott aside, there are still some exciting names in the Ireland panel. Some are already familiar, as Gavin Bazunu and James Furlong have played first team football for Shamrock Rovers while Cavan lad Sean McEvoy has appeared for Irish League side Ballinamallard United, helping them reach the Irish Cup final, and keeper Jimmy Corcoran (Preston) had his moment of fame with that sending off while playing for Ireland against Holland in the U17 finals last year.

It's an exciting time for an exciting squad and good attendances are hoped-for when the Irish side play, the first game against Greece in Tallaght Stadium on Friday.

But issues at the FAI of late are a cloud over the whole association, and there is a concern over the role, if any, that Delaney will play this week.

In his position as head of UEFA's youth committee, Delaney was the main speaker at the draw for the finals last month and he would be expected to attend the U17 finals in that UEFA role no matter where it was held.

But UEFA have been unwilling to state if the former CEO of the FAI, said to be on "gardening leave" from that body, will be present, with some fears that the sight of Delaney at one of Ireland's games in the finals could spark protests.

"None whatsover," manager O'Brien said when asked of Delaney's attendance could be a distraction.

" Our focus is going to be on getting the players prepped, getting them into their routine from this evening on. These are young players, their focus is so clear this week on what they need to do and what they're trying to achieve. We'll just be focussing on the players, simple as that."

Mick McCarthy noted a mood of gloom around FAI staff when he visited their HQ last week but O'Brien says the public image of the FAI won't be a block for him.

"I'm working a long time with the FAI and I'm working in the unit I'm in with some very talented people, skilled, very passionate about Irish football. Those circumstances won't have any affect on our preparations for the U17 tournament," he said.

O'Brien, eager to see Manchester United prospect Charlie McCann make his competitive debut for Ireland, says his players need to have focus.

"They will probably have to balance themselves in terms of controlling their emotions, that will be a big thing," he said.

"It's important they don't turn into a spectator or a fan; they are players, they are here to play football and prepare for an international tournament."