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Group B preview: 'It's a life experience'

"This is not just a footballing education," said Eastern Region NIR boss Harry McConkey, sure like the rest of the Group B coaches that the UEFA Regions' Cup changes lives.

Grzegorz Kowalski, Harry McConkey, Michael Rentschler and Sreten Ćuk
Grzegorz Kowalski, Harry McConkey, Michael Rentschler and Sreten Ćuk ©Sportsfile

Sreten Ćuk (Zagreb, CRO)
For the older players here – the ones who have maybe one or two years left of playing – this is a great chance to win something substantial; for the younger ones, the under 25s, here is a chance to be discovered and maybe move into professional football. I work as a coach for our regional association, and my mission is to help these players to improve.

We have seen the standard of the competition from hosting the finals in 2009; the Spanish side who won that tournament, Castilla y Léon, would have thrived in the top division in most European nations. Our main aim here is to represent Zagreb and Croatian amateur football. Reaching the final might not be a realistic target, but we want to represent ourselves with pride.

Grzegorz Kowalski (Dolnośląski, POL)
All the teams that have come to Ireland want to win the competition. Last year, Veneto became the first side to win the UEFA Regions' Cup for a second time, so why not be the second? That's our motivation. I spoke with the winning coach from 2007 before we came out here – I even met him at the airport in Wroclaw on our way to Dublin!

We have a different squad from what we had in qualifying because six or seven of the guys got signed by professional clubs, and of course, others have potential to become professionals too, especially if they impress at this tournament. But let's not forget we came here as a team and not with individual goals in mind.

Harry McConkey (Eastern Region NIR)
I say to my players that this is not just a footballing education – which it clearly is – but also it's a life experience, with the different cultures, different languages and the different styles of play. It's absolutely massive for my players and myself to represent Northern Ireland. In Northern Ireland we are used to talking about two communities, and the lovely part of playing in the Regions' Cup is seeing players from those two communities gelling. We see young lads from West Belfast and East Belfast coming back and saying of one another: 'He's a brilliant lad', and that's so precious for us.

Any final would be a dream for me – but I have to say it would add some colour to the occasion if we took on Eastern Region IRL. We do have a good close relationship, and I mean that – it's not a veneer. Their doctor has treated my players – and even me!

Michael Rentschler (Württemberg, GER)
It's a great tournament – I loved it as a player and it is a lovely thing as a coach. We try our best to emulate the style of the German national team that won the World Cup, but we have to find our own way of playing. We want to be as successful as the national team. We are proud of our region and proud to represent the German Football Association – it is something special to have this badge on your chest

We will love playing in this tournament – we love being here in Dublin and we want to be here until next Saturday! You have to enjoy every minute of it. It's something special because of all the media interest, and the other teams, and the organisation. The players have to be proud to be here and enjoy everything about it.

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