Ireland through to Deaflympic quarter finals
The Ireland Deaf men's football team have progressed into the quarter-finals of the Deaflympic games in Bulgaria after a hard fought 2-1 victory against Japan yesterday evening.
This was a spirited performance by the Irish lads in a game played in hot and humid conditions.
Ireland made a blistering start, Eamon Byrne pulling all the strings in midfield with strikers Joe Watson and Brian Babb tearing the Japanese defence apart at will.
Ireland had already passed up a glut of chances before Watson set up his strike partner in the 9th minute and Babb rifled a terrific 22 yard shot into the bottom corner of the net to put Ireland 1-0 ahead.
Japan were fit, fast and technically gifted but it was very much against the run of play when they equalised from a fortuitous penalty in the 22nd minute for 1-1.
This resilient Irish team knuckled down and were soon back in the lead after a fine team move saw Bobby McAra feed Mark Sinclair and the winger's super long pass sent Watson through on goal and he coolly controlled the ball and fired into the far corner of the net for a 2-1 lead and his 53rd International goal.
Ireland Keeper' Michael Walsh made two crucial saves from Japan breaks but Ireland remained in the ascendancy and Sean Young, Babb and Sinclair had further chances to score but luck deserted them.
A similar pattern developed on the restart, Ireland in control and creating chances but Japan still threatening on the break. Babb and Barry Campbell who both made good contributions were replaced by Jason Maguire and skipper Darren Dunne both of whom also impressed.
Some of the Irish build-up play was superb but the third goal would not come as Watson, Maguire and Roy McKee all went agonisingly close and Sinclair had a strong penalty appeal waved away in the 75th minute.
The Ireland defence of McKee, McAra, Noel O'Donnell and Stephen Millar stood firm as Japan applied late pressure but this was a more comfortable win than the 2-1 scoreline suggested.
Ireland progressed from the group stages with 7 points from three games along with Russia. Ireland play Egypt in the Deaflympics quarter-final this Wednesday 31st July 3.30pm kick-off Irish time.
Assistant Manager Geoff Foy was pleased with the win: "It's a great credit to the lads to progress from a tough group and into the quarter finals. All the games will be tough from here onwards but morale within the camp is great and we believe we will do well in this competition."
The team would like to acknowledge the many messages of goodwill from Ireland supporters.