Lucan’s Andrew Odobamidele hopes to emulate his hero Virgil van Dijk when the Republic of Ireland Under-17s kick off their European Championships campaign against Greece in Tallaght this week.
Odobamidele is one of several west Dublin faces in Colin O’Brien’s squad for the finals, with recent Shamrock Rovers debutant James Furlong also in the mix at the back.
PFA player of the year van Dijk never got the opportunity to play in the Under-17 Euros for the Netherlands but has gone on to compete in a Champions League final with Liverpool.
And the former Leixlip United centre-half Odobamidele sees a little of himself in world football’s outstanding defender – though he acknowledges he has a long way to go.
“I play centre-back and Virgil van Dijk is obviously the best defender at the moment,” the Norwich City man told Dublin Gazette.
“He’s quality. He’s one of my idols in my position.
“We like to play out from the back so being good on the ball is kind of part of that.
“Some of his attributes, I like to think I have some of them myself. Obviously, he’s on a different level, but he’s a good person to look up to and a good role model.”
The European Championship games – Ireland will also face the Czech Republic in Waterford before concluding their group games against Belgium in Tallaght – will be the biggest he’s faced.
He’s played in the FA Youth Cup during his 12 months in England and has appeared twice in the Under-23s Premier League, but Tallaght on Friday night will be a step up.
“We went to watch the Rovers vs Pats game on Monday, just to get a feel of the stadium and stuff. The preparation has been top notch.”
One player who won’t link up with the squad is star striker Troy Parrott, who sustained a leg injury in Tottenham Hotspur’s final Premier League 2 game and will sit the showpiece event out.
Parrott’s loss could be Conor Carty’s gain as the Wicklow-born former St Francis striker, now at Wolverhampton Wanderers, looks odds-on to start in the number nine role.
Carty scored twice in a recent warm-up game against Turkey at Tallaght Stadium and will likely lead the line when the Greeks arrive in Tallaght on Friday night.
“We’ve already played Czech Republic and we played Belgium as well. When we played Czech Republic, we went 2-1 up.
“I think there were 15 minutes left in the game and they pulled two goals back. It was just managing the game and realising what stage you’re at in the game to slow the game down.
“Belgium again, it was in the second half, we scored a goal and we were playing in their half for the whole thing.
“So we know we can do it, we can do it when it matters.”