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Great Britain coach Damon Kirby has thanked supporters who helped make the staging of Lions’ first ever game at Under 17s a reality. Over £5,000 was raised in a month-long Crowdfunding drive which ensured that the entire travelling squad could appear in Austria. 

The squad faced number one ranked European under 17s team Austria at the Ravelin Stadium in Vienna. In a message to donors Head coach Damon Kirby expressed “massive gratitude for the support and donations”.

He added: “We travelled to Vienna this past weekend, and took on the #1 ranked team at this age group the Austrian National Team. Unfortunately, the result did not go our way, and the final score was 25-0 to Austria.

“However the biggest win from the weekend was that the team of 45 players and 13 support staff made it to Vienna to put on the Great Britain Lions uniforms to compete, and the team really did. The gave their everything from the start to the finish of the trip, and they gave even more on the field during the game.”

The game took place on a crisp Sunday afternoon and the Lions started well – holding the Austrian to one touchdown in the first half. The Austrians’ experience in the 11-man format meant they were able to build on their first half performance and put on three more scores to finish the game 25-0 victors.

GB Offensive Coordinator Mikey Davies said “The jump from 5 or 7-a-side football, to the full 11-a-side game is huge, but these young athletes took it all in their stride and rose to the occasion, against one of the strongest and most well established teams in Europe. Unfortunately the offence didn’t move the ball as effectively as we had hoped, however at no point did I feel that we were out matched, on an athletic level.”

Defensive Coordinator Tom Hammet, had nothing but praise for his Defence, “The game against Austria was a long time coming for a very talented group of young men. I know all the coaches are very proud of their efforts in the first international at this age group for GB, against some of the best youth players in the world.

“From a defensive perspective they embodied everything we expected from them, they were the fast, fearless family we wanted them to be. To see players translate hours of hard work into sacks, interceptions, TFL’s and 3 and outs on the field was magical – I can’t wait to do it all again next year, and see how the younger players in the travelling squad take on new roles as leaders within the group.”

After the game Kirby said “The U17 Lions are a development squad for the U19. We didn’t select age eligible players who had played a game for the U19s, we took 45 players and each and everyone played against Austria. Every running back had a carry, every receiver had a catch or target, all players improved over the weekend.

“I would like to thank my staff (including Jason Shaw, John Angel and Will Babbington who are no longer with the program) for their unwavering dedication and commitment to the GB Lions and their players. All of whom have given their time freely and so generously.  You are very much appreciated by me, the players, the parents/guardians and the wider Britball community.  The Lions would also like to acknowledge and thank all of the U16 teams and coaches throughout BAFA without whom there would be no GB players to make this historic occasion a reality! Thank you.”