UEFA Regions' Cup: Irish side into final after Czech win
Olomouc 1-4 Region 2
Eoin Hayes struck either side of half-time as Gerry Davis’s side got the three points they needed as Spanish representatives Castilla y León went from 2-0 up to surprisingly lose 3-2 to Russia side South Region in the other group game.
Clare’s Stephen Kelly had opened the scoring after steering the ball home following a Jimmy Carr corner but Olomouc's Petr Navrátil levelled ten minutes before the break.
Hayes then showed his finishing qualities to restore the Irish lead just four minutes later and then turned the ball home after getting in behind the Czech defence six minutes into the second half.
Carr then capped an excellent individual display with a brilliant individual goal in the 83rd minute.
This will be the third time an Irish side will appear in the final after Eastern Region captured the trophy two years ago in Dublin while Leinster & Munster were unfortunate to lose out in the final in Portugal in 2011.
Naturally Davis is thrilled with the efforts his players and staff have put in being rewarded by reaching another European final.
“After the final whistle I thanked all the players, staff and officials for the monumental effort to get here. We’ve worked so hard to cope with the conditions and every single person involved has contributed,” he said.
“The Spanish were 2-0 up so we knew we needed to score goals. We felt that realistically we’d need to score at least three to start with and we changed our approach a little and pressed them a bit higher.
“We had a goal disallowed after about 50 seconds when Kevin O’Connell had the ball in the net and we weren’t exactly sure why it was disallowed.
“The goal from Stephen Kelly came from a routine we’d worked on. The delivery was excellent from Jimmy Carr and the header was excellent. The goal we conceded was against the run of play but we took the punch and bounced back.
“David Stack did well in the second goal when he sent through Kevin O’Connell who showed good skill to create the chance for Eoin Hayes to stick it away.
“Eoin’s second goal was a great finish from another great pass by Jimmy Carr and we then heard the news from the other game and that the Russians had turned in our favour. Jimmy finished one off himself. It was great performance overall.
“We’re just trying to get our breath back. The players are all in recovery mode. The players were in the cold pool an hour after the game.
“We’ll look at the few knocks and niggles then turn our heads to a European final on Sunday.”
Region 2: O'Connell, Higgins, Hoey, Kelly (Griffin 85), Horgan, Carr, Stack, O'Donovan (Gannon 69), Hayes, O'Connell, Daly-Butz (Smith 63).