United in Ireland’s call

by Gazette Reporter

 sport@gazettegroup.com

MALAHIDE United alumni Zachary Elbouzedi and JJ Lunney – now with West Bromwich Albion and Preston North End respectively — have both been called up to the Republic of Ireland Under-17 side for an invitational tournament in Hungary next week.
Elbouzedi started out his underage career with Rivervalley Rangers in Swords before moving on to Malahide United. He and his schoolmate Lunney have been regularly involved with Irish underage teams over the past few years.
Elbouzedi travelled with the Irish Under-15s to Qatar in 2012 to visit the ASPIRE academy while they both played games on home soil at Swords Celtic’s Balheary home in 2013.
Lunney linked up with Preston earlier this year after previously visiting Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield United and Brighton & Hove Albion.
Elbouzedi, meanwhile, has had a few busy seasons on trial at Aston Villa, Norwich, Middlesbrough, Wolves, Sheffield Utd and Preston End as well as a fantastic Milk Cup tournament with the North Dublin Schoolboy League.
The Irish will meet hosts Hungary, Malta and Serbia in the four-team tournament which will help manager Tom Mohan’s side prepare for the upcoming UEFA Championships qualifying round.
“This tournament will be beneficial to the whole group. It’s good to get the players into tournament mode and we’ll benefit from the three games in a short space of time,” explained Mohan.
“It’ll help us to play in this sort of competition ahead of the European campaign. The lads in the squad that played in the Under-17 qualifiers last year would have experienced what this age group is about and we hope it’ll stand them in good stead.
“A lot of the boys that are coming in to us now did well at Under-16 level last season and had the experience of the UEFA invitational tournament that took place in Switzerland in May.
“They are coming along well as a group. A number of them are tasting full-time football at club level for the first time this summer which will be tough for them physically but we hope they’ll enjoy being together on international duty too.
“There are a lot of attacking options with this group. It’s a good time to experiment with different players, different positions and systems. We’re facing good opposition in Hungary and we’ll learn a lot in the three games out there.”
The tournament begins on Tuesday, August 5 in Dorog against the hosts before they take on Malta two days later in Telki. That is the venue, too, for the final round-robin game against Serbia on Saturday, August 9.

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