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Ireland Under-17s have no fear of Spain with semi spot at stake

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They did it the hard way, but the Republic of Ireland Under-17s showed great character to qualify for the knock-out stages of the European Championships in Hungary.A demoralising defeat to open their campaign, as Colm O'Brien’s young side were hammered 5-1 by Poland, yet the youth bounced back in style to win their two remaining group games to progress to the last eight of the competition.A comprehensive 3-0 win over Wales put this emerging Ireland side back on track, sending them into the group decider against the hosts, knowing that a win would put them through.Mason Melia and Luke Kehir both bagged a brace in that clash with the Hungarians as Ireland romped to a 4-2 victory to progress to the quarter-finals and set up a clash with the highly fancied Spanish for a place in the semi-finals.That match kicks off tonight at 7pm (Live on RTÉ News channel and RTÉ Player), and coach O’Brien’s mantra of "cup football" certainly steps up a notch against the aristocrats of European football.O’Brien got to watch the Spanish in action ahead of the game and he was full of praise for a side that he believes are experts in both passing and receiving the ball as well as maintaining possession.Yet this ultra-confident Ireland unit still expect to be presented with chances during the game and as long as they remain patient and stick to the gameplan, the coach believes that opportunities will arrive."The majority of their squad is made up of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid players," said O’Brien ahead of the game."You know from their first team that that is their identity, they just like to dominate the ball.

And from a young age, they have a Masters degree in passing and receiving, and they are all so comfortable on the ball."One of their

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