The Republic of Ireland made a dream start to their UEFA Under-17 European Championship qualifying campaign as they defeated Andorra 5-0 at Turner's Cross on Thursday evening.
Justin Ferizaj’s superb finish in the first-half followed by goals from Mark O’Mahony, Kevin Zefi, Sam Curtis, and Rocca Vata in the second was enough to send Ireland top of Group 5 following Poland’s 0-0 draw with North Macedonia earlier in the day at the Mardyke in Cork.
Colin O'Brien’s side dominated from the very beginning but for all their possession in their opponent’s half, it wasn’t until the 10th minute that they had their first sight at goal.
Andorra had defended well until that point but Ferizaj soon found himself in space 20 yards from the target although from there he could only send his curler harmlessly over the crossbar.
The Shamrock Rovers man would do much better with his next attempt as he gave Ireland the lead with a stunning solo effort.
The midfielder sensational weaved past a number of his opponents and from the edge of the box - with the help of the slick surface - he skidded his low drive just past the goalkeeper’s reach and into the far bottom right corner.
The visitors created just the one chance in the first period but following a swift counter-attack, forward Bernat Arderiu Vilanova sent his attempt high and wide and into the Shed End.
Ireland, led by the dangerous Zefi, created numerous opportunities at the other end of the pitch but their best opportunity to double their lead before the break fell to Luke O’Brien but the St Pats left-back sent his close-range header straight at the keeper before scrambling the rebound against the post.
But those goals would finally come in the second 45 as O’Mahony quickly settled any nerves when he sent his shot from Rocco Vata’s cross beat the keeper with the help of a deflection to make it 2-0.
That eventually became three following an excellent low finish into the far corner by Zefi, which his display thoroughly deserved, before Sam Curtis tapped home number four.
Vata completed the scoring in style when he blasted the ball inside the far post from distance to seal a great night and a great start to the qualifiers for Ireland’s youngsters.
Republic of Ireland: Walsh; Curtis, Heffernan, Browne, O’Brien; Vata (Murray 76), McManus, Ferizaj (Lipsuic 76); Umeh (Nolan 67), McLoughlin (O’Mahony 54), Zefi.
Andorra: Mendes Meireles; Rodriguez Gelabert, Sanchez Navarro, Acosta Farre, Teixeira Pinto; Rodriguez Dominguez, Estrada Quinquilla (Graca De Almeida ht), Torne Da Silva (Foix De La Rosa 62), Carrau Rodriguez (Balastegui Martinez 62); Guma Cerqueda (Colillas Baiget 71), Arderiu Vilanova (Jimenez Ferro 78).
Referee: Joonas Jaanovits (Estonia).