Teams from England and the Republic of Ireland will face off in Group 3 of the UEFA Regions' Cup qualifying competition, which is to be played in Bosnia-Herzegovina from 8-12 November. The backdrop may be the Balkans, but the involvement of English and Irish sides could set the tone for the tournament, which is being hosted by Semberija-Majevica-Bljeljina Amateur.
The luck of the draw seemed to have gone against England's Mid Cheshire Amateur when they were forced to play in a preliminary round in Slovenia in order to reach this intermediary stage of the competition. However, Nick Armitage's side emerged triumphant and they must now overcome, among others, Gerry Smith's experienced Republic of Ireland side, who have been doing their homework ahead of their meeting with Mid Cheshire in their second game of the mini-tournament on 10 November.
Smith, who led the Irish Under-20 side to the knockout stages of the FIFA World Youth Championship in the United Arab Emirates, will be getting in touch with Mervyn Bell, coach of the Northern Ireland Amateur side who finished behind Mid Cheshire in Slovenia, to get some tips.
"I'll have a chat with Mervyn Bell about Mid Cheshire, but we'll have also had a look at them before we play them, so we'll have an idea of what we're facing," Smith told uefa.com. "Our first match against San Marino is a huge game for us. Three points is the order of the day and I'm not too concerned how we achieve that as long as we do it."
Smith's team is drawn from amateur sides from all over Ireland, and under the rules of the Regions' Cup, does not include any players who have previously had a professional contract with a club. They include Roy Beechiner, who plays for the same Cork team, Rockmount AFC, which where Roy Keane started out.
They have been getting practice by playing against top-flight sides in Ireland, although goals have been hard to come by. "We've been creating chances and we've matched them for pace and fitness and that's a good guideline, so I'm not unduly concerned about it at all," said Smith.
Alessandro Giaquinto's San Marino team are something of a mystery to most of the other competitors, while, as hosts, Semberija are among the favourites to progress. Semberija comprise players from third and fourth division clubs in West Bosnia, a region whose amateur teams have traditionally produced a supply line of good footballers, including former Yugoslavian internationals Vahidin and Husref Musemic and Serbia and Montenegro striker Savo Miloševic, all of whom started at local side FK Podrinje.
The Semberija coach, Milorad Savic, has identified Mid Cheshire and the Republic of Ireland as his sides' main rivals. He said: "We've had several training matches, but I feel that as a team we should have spent more time together. I think that we'll be fighting for first place with the teams from England and the Republic of Ireland."
The tournament will be played over five days with each team playing each other once. The group winners will qualify for a place at the finals of the Regions' Cup, which will take place next June.
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