Our U19 side are through to the semi-final of the 2019 European Championship where they will face defending champions Portugal at 3pm next Wednesday afternoon in the Banants Stadium, Yerevan, the capital of host nation Armenia.
Ireland, this Sunday afternoon, defeated the Czech Republic by two goals to one in the FFA Academy Stadium in their concluding Group B contest to finish runners-up to France who defeated Norway by one goal to nil in the other Group contest.
With temperatures in the mid thirties, this was a very physically demanding encounter which was further compounded by the greater size of the Czech players. There was a degree of nervousness from both sides in the early stages and a dreadful miss by Brandon Kavanagh from three yards out of an open goal might have unnerved a lesser side.
Ireland were settled on thirty five minutes when striker Jonathan Afolabi used his pace and power to create and score an excellent solo goal. Exchanges throughout the remainder of the half were fairly even with Ireland dealing well with matters.
The Czech Republic stepped up their efforts in the second period and caused Ireland a few problems but they remained resilient until the seventy ninth minute when the Czech Republic equalised. At this juncture, Norway were trailing France by one goal to nil in the other contest but with points and goal difference equal their better disciplinary record would see Norway through.
The negative emotional realisation lasted less than two minutes, then substitute Barry Coffey got on the end on a sweet passing movement and calmly slotted home the second and winning goal.
Save for one rash decision, goalkeeper Brian Maher was solid in his role while the centre back pairing of Mark McGuinness and Oisin McEntee defended resolutely. Captain Lee O’Connor playing in an unfamiliar midfield role was excellent and was supported splendidly by 16 year old Joe Hodge. Man of the Match honours however must go to lone striker Jonathan Afolabi whose pace, power and work rate tormented the Czech defenders. It seems incredible that Afolabi was released by Southampton and is currently unattached, a situation one suspects that will not prevail for long.
There will be huge disappointment for this afternoon’s two outstanding players, Jonathan Afolabi and captain Lee O’Connor who both received harsh yellow cards which will rule them out of the semi-final.
Group B Table
P W D L F A g/d Pts
France 3 3 0 0 5 0 5 9
Ireland 3 1 1 1 3 3 – 4
Norway 3 0 2 1 1 2 -1 2
Czech Republic 3 0 1 2 1 5 -4 1
Group A Table
P W D L F A g/d Pts
Portugal 3 2 1 0 8 1 7 7
Spain 3 2 1 0 7 3 4 7
Italy 3 1 0 2 5 5 – 3
Armenia 3 0 0 3 1 12 -11 0