There was bitter disappointment for our U17 starlets, when a last minute equaliser from Group A opponents Greece took the shine off an otherwise excellent opening performance at Tallaght Stadium in the European Championship Finals this Friday evening. On a dry but rather chilly evening the playing surface looked in excellent condition unlike the bumpy Tolka Park surface endured by Belgium and the Czech Republic in the opening Group A match earlier in the day.
Having qualified automatically as hosts, this was the first real competitive test for Ireland and the players certainly embraced the situation with a fine first half performance, playing a controlled possession based game.
Goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu was relatively unemployed during the half while the back four of Sean McEvoy, Andrew Omobamidele, Timi Sobowale and James Furlong all looker comfortable in possession. In front of them, captain Seamas Keogh and Manchester City midfielder Joe Hodge controlled the tempo with Hodge particularly catching the eye with his close control and forward movement while Keogh was neat, tidy and efficient, somewhat reminiscent of Glenn Whelan. The attacking midfield trio all made a positive impact with Matt Everitt expounding much energy on the right hand side while Festy Ebosele on the left flank was very prominent but being naturally right footed did favour inside movement when perhaps going outside his marker, who he had the comfortable beating of, might have proven more rewarding. Central attacking midfielder Charlie McCann was prominent early on and might well have scored but his effort was just too high. Up front, Conor Carty was movement personified giving the opposing defenders a torrid time and with improved technical control may prove to be an excellent target man.
Ireland took the lead on fifty seven minutes when a corner kick from Furlong was headed into the danger area by Sobowale and Matt Everitt displayed his predatory instincts by being first to react and score. Ireland continued to dominate and did create further opportunities but our recurring failure to finish clinically, reared it’s head again and we suffered the painful consequences with the disputed Greek equaliser coming in the fifth and final minute of added time.
We next travel to the Regional Sports Centre in Waterford where we will take on the Czech Republic at 7pm on Monday evening, while at the same time Belgium and Greece will lock horns in the City Calling Stadium, Longford.
Team: Gavin Bazunu (Manchester City); Sean McEvoy (Ballinamallard United), Andrew Omobamidele (Norwich City), Timi Sobowale (Manchester City), James Furlong (Shamrock Rovers); Joe Hodge (Manchester City), Seamas Keogh[C] (Southampton); Matt Everitt (Brighton & Hove Albion), Charlie McCann (Manchester United), Festy Ebosele (Derby County); Conor Carty (Wolverhampton Wanderers
65′ Anselmo Garcia McNulty (Real Betis) for Sobowale
79′ Ronan McKinley (Derry City) for McCann
89′ Sean Kennedy (Sunderland) for Everitt