Football

Stephen Kenny Is Clearly A Huge Fan Of Ireland U17 Midfielder Joe Hodge

Stephen Kenny Is Clearly A Huge Fan Of Ireland U17 Midfielder Joe Hodge

Despite a fantastic performance, Ireland have been eliminated from the U17 Euros after their 1-1 draw with Belgium. It was their third draw of the group, meaning they will exit the competition despite remaining unbeaten.

Needing a win against a very strong Belgian side, Ireland played incredibly well. Forced to defend for most of the opening period, they showed some fantastic instincts at the back to keep their opponents out.

While Belgium would take the lead in the second half, Ireland gave themselves a chance of the three points with 15 minutes to go. James Furlong delivered an inch-perfect free kick into the penalty area, with Timo Sobowale stretching to steer it home.

Ultimately it would not be enough for Ireland, with the Czech Republic's win over Greece ensuring they were condemned to third place in the group.

While their tournament would end in disappointment, we have to be encouraged by the performances we saw from a number of different players. Manchester City midfielder Joe Hodge was one player in particular who caught Ireland U21 boss Stephen Kenny's eye.

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He's a classic natural midfield player. He understands the game fro one so young, has a great appreciation for space. He takes great angles to receive the ball, and has great feet, good vision and a range of passing.

He's got a lot. I suppose he has to develop physically. He showed tonight, would he have the stamina to match those athletic Belgian players, and would he have the legs to match that over 90 minutes. He answered that emphatically with a really impressive second half performance.

English-born Hodge will not turn 17 until September, and has made 15 appearances in a talented Manchester City side in the U18 Premier League this season. He spoke to Tony O'Donoghue after today's game.

Definitely one to watch in the future.

SEE ALSO: The Stars Who Have Played In The European U17 Championships

Gary Connaughton

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