Our Republic of Ireland U21 side, with Head Coach Stephen Kenny at the helm, went down to a two nil defeat by favourites Brazil in the semi-final of the 2019 Toulon Tournament in the Stade de Lattre-de-Tassigny, Aubagne this Wednesday afternoon.
While disappointed at the outcome, we should take pride and much hope for the future from the performance of our young side. Brazil were deserved winners and might well have scored more but our team sought at all times to play in a cultured and positive fashion.
The contest commenced in dramatic fashion with the concession of a penalty by Conor Masterson within two minutes for which he was cautioned but might well have been dismissed. That good fortune was further embellished with Brazil missing the spot kick.
Brazil, with a much more experienced side, many of whom play first team football at a high level, were worthy winners but several of our young players certainly enhanced their reputations. Connor Ronan, man of the match in our previous two outings, again caught the eye and would not have looked out of place in the opposition side. He must be an early candidate for our senior squad.
Goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher might have done better with the opening goal on fifteen minutes but except for one excellent second half save had little to do and could not really be faulted for the second goal which came immediately following the half-time break.
The back four all performed admirably with Masterson, who has just been released by Liverpool, recovering from his early troubles to give a steady performance. Lee O’Connor, captain of our U19 side was excellent at right back as was centre back Dara O’Shea. Bohemian left back Darragh Leahy also made a fine contribution.
The holding midfield duo of Conor Coventry and captain Jayson Molumby worked tirelessly against their formidable opponents while Stephen Mallon and Adam Idah worked effortlessly in difficult circumstances. Together with the aforementioned Ronan, the other shining light was Aaron Connolly who gave their Barcelona bound full back a torrid afternoon.
Ireland will now take on Mexico in the third place play-off at 12.30pm on Saturday afternoon in Salon-de-Provence.
Caoimhin Kelleher(Liverpool); Lee O’Connor(Manchester United), Dara O’Shea(West Bromwich Albion), Conor Masterson(Liverpool), Darragh Leahy(Bohemian); Conor Coventry(West Ham United), Jayson Molumby(Brighton & Hove Albion); Stephen Mallon(Sheffield United), Connor Ronan(Wolverhampton Wanderers), Aaron Connolly(Brighton & Hove Albion); Adam Idah(Norwich City)
Simon Power(Norwich City) for Mallon 54′
Jack Taylor (Barnet) for Ronan 65′
Aaron Drinan (Ipswich Town) for Idah 83′
Josh Barrett (Reading) for Connolly 83′
The other semi-final between Japan and Mexico kicked-off earlier today in the same venue and saw Japan go through to Saturday’s final in Salon-de-Provence with a five four penalty shoot-out success after the sides played out a two all draw in normal time.