The Republic of Ireland U17 side secured their qualification for the UEFA Championships finals with a game to spare after securing a 1-0 win over Slovakia in Paphos, Cyprus.
Glen McAuley’s 66th-minute winner sealed the three points for the Irish and they are guaranteed a top two spot due to hosts Cyprus being held to a scoreless draw by Faroe Islands in the group’s other fixture today.
Colin O’Brien’s side will secure one of the best runner-up spots at the very least regardless of how they fare in their final group game against the Cypriots on Monday and the Irish boss is rightly proud of how his side has performed.
Slovakia beat Cyprus 2-1 on the opening day so were a tough opponent for O’Brien’s youngsters but Liverpool striker McAuley proved the difference with 14 minutes left.
“It was a tough game. We had chances and and Adam Idah hit the post with a strike from outside the box but we also had to rely upon our keeper Brian Maher making two very good saves,” said O’Brien.
“In the second half Glen McAuley did well to get behind their defence and finish well and we did what was required to see the game out. I felt we deserved the win on the day.
“Throughout the season we’ve been tried to educate them on the functions of the game and on top of that looking at how to address tournament play. It stood to us."
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Maher, O'Connor, Ledwidge, Doherty, Collins, Bolger, McAuley, Coventry, Roache, Idah, Connolly.
SLOVAKIA: Trnovský, Kozák, Mišenko, Pišoja, Machara (Filipiak 77), Potoma, Gerebenits (Čerňanský 80+1), Murcko, Martišiak, Dávidík (Kmeť 72), Strachan.