It's been a busy week for our international Saints.
Brian Maher, Cian Lee, Luke Nolan and Richie O'Farrell are just back from Spain where they faced Hungary and Romania with the Ireland U17s.
JJ Lunney is still in La Manga with the Ireland U19s while Rory Feely and Alex O'Hanlon featured for the Ireland U21 Home Based team in a 0-0 draw against the Irish amateurs on Saturday.
Richie sat down with StPatsFC.Com to look back on their week in Spain, as Colin O'Brien's team continue preparations for the UEFA U17 European Championship Elite Phase qualifiers in Cyprus next month.
They'll meet the hosts as well as Slovakia and the Faroe Islands. The group winners qualify for the Euros which take place in Croatia in May.
Richie began by telling us how the week went overall, from the training sessions, to the two friendly games (2-0 wins over both Hungary and Romania) and life off the pitch in the Spanish heat.
"It was a really enjoyable week away, we stayed in a hotel with everything on site and the facilities were top class. We had two good tests, first against Hungary and then Romania and as a team I thought we played to our strengths, battled for everything and the results showed that."
"On a more personal level, I was happy to contribute mainly in the second game playing in midfield, Romania were a good side and they made it difficult for us especially in the first half and we had to dig in for the win. In terms of the training, I found it challenging playing in the heat, but I think it was helpful, especially as were in the middle of our preseason with pats at the moment."
Goals for Pat's U17 Captain Luke Nolan and Adam Idah secured the win over Hungary, Brian Maher also started that game in goal and Richie came on.
Two goals from Jordan Doherty helped the young boys in green beat Romania two days later, Richie and Cian both started that game.
O'Farrell, who can play at centre-back or in central midfield and says the games were a good test.
"We knew going into both of them that we'd have to be on it from the start, we played good football in both matches and I thought we managed both games well, which is a real positive for the group going forward and taking that into competitive games."
"We treated them as though they were competitive group matches, and the fact that there are a lot of us trying to get into that squad for the elite phase next month gives people that extra motivation to do well for the team. As a team we're really positive and we have a bit of momentum now, having gone unbeaten going into the elite phase and a lot of credit has to go to the coaches."
Pat's academy coach Keith Andrews is among the Ireland U17 coach staff.
The week was used for lots of team and individual meetings to help the players understand how Colin O'Brien wants the team to play, as Richie explains.
"The staff spoke to us a lot over the week, individually and in groups, trying to encourage us and give little tips on what to do in certain situations, which is a real bonus. They were happy with how we performed, but also made sure to analyse where we can be better in future."
"It's a completely different routine from what you're used to at home. Each day you have a schedule, usually involving breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks before bed, but then you've also got training during the day and technical meetings where you go off and analyse different things and set targets for yourself and the team."
FIFA, Netflix, their own version of The X Factor and sleeping helped the players relax away from the football.
"There's a lot of rest time in between all of the sessions and meeting and sometimes you might go for a nap, play a game of FIFA or watch something on Netflix, but the coaches do take recovery very seriously and it adds to the professionalism of the training camp I think. Sometimes we have assigned team activities, which are basically team bonding exercises with forfeits for the losers, the other day it was a quiz and the losing team had to sing so they're usually taken quite seriously."
Back to the serious stuff, and we just 18 seats available on the plane to Cyprus, competition for places is something that has been on the minds of all the players.
Richie really impressed in a friendly game in Wolves in January, and wanted to carry that form, along with his performances for St Pat's, into the games in Spain.
"I was only called into the squad for the Wolves trip due to some injuries but I was really happy with how I did against Wolves."
"To have gotten another chance in this training camp is another plus for me, so I'm hoping I get into the next squad for the elite phase. I thought I did well this week overall but I'm always looking to improve and I know competition for places is high."
"Looking ahead to Cyprus, I can be very versatile in a tournament squad if I'm picked, because I can play anywhere in midfield and also at the back as I have with pats. I know there's a lot of competition, and that I'm not guaranteed anything, but I'm hoping I've done enough to make it into the elite phase squad."
Away from the pitch, O'Farrell is in 5th year and studying hard for his Leaving Cert in 2018, with a degree in psychology on the agenda to go along with his football career.
For now though, his focus is on getting back into pre season with St Pat's, and hopefully boarding the plane to Cyprus next month.
We finished by getting his views on how pre season has gone with the U17s, who start their season away to Derry in late March.
"I think we've got a really positive group this year. We all get along with each other, and a lot of us were in the team that won the league last year so we'll have that bit of experience too, which makes it easier for the new lads we've brought in because they know that we've played in big games and we'll be there to try and replicate what we did last year."
"We've brought in some really talented players, a lot of younger lads who have been very lively and there's a good competitive atmosphere around the team building towards our first game against Derry. We're still gelling together as a team and we've got a couple of preseason friendlies coming up to get to know each other more on the pitch and I think once we get that understanding we'll be a very strong team."
We'll catch up with Luke, Brian and Cian closer to the start of the season and Ireland's trip to Cyprus.
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