Cunningham strikes late to overcome Aussie test

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Cunningham strikes late to overcome Aussie test

The Republic of Ireland Schools defeated their Australian counterparts 2-1 in a friendly at Home Farm FC, Whitehall yesterday afternoon (Saturday, January 21).
22nd Jan 2023

This was the first competitive outing for John McShane's select and it proved to be quite a physical battle. Captain Jesse Dempsey (Wexford CBS) had to come off at the break following an earlier collision.

In a scoreless first half, the visitors enjoyed much of the possession but didn’t trouble the Irish netminder Ryan Delaney (St. Francis College, Rochestown).

The hosts were first to make an impact with Adam O’Halloran (Clarin College, Athenry) forcing a tremendous save from the Australian goalkeeper with 14 minutes played.

This was followed up by a glancing header from Carrick-on-Shannon scholar Niall Holohan who went just wide of the mark at the half hour mark.

The Australian keeper was called on again just before the interval as Peter Grogna (St. Mary’s CBS, Carlow) went close.

A string of Irish substitutions at the break saw four changes with Mansfield, Kenny, Mohan and Russell Vargas introduced and we didn’t have to wait long for the deadlock to be broken.

Eoin Kenny (St. Mary’s College, Dundalk) netted a fabulous opener with 51 minutes registered as Peter Grogan played in Kenny to slot in at the far post from 6 yards out. 

However the celebrations were short lived as Will Freney equalised two minutes later with a sublime set piece to the top corner.

The last quarter of play was broken up with more substitutions from both benches and this proved decisive.

Brian Cunningham (Presentation College, Headford) was only on the park 15 minutes when he struck what proved to be the match winner in the 90th minute.

An incredible team goal on the counter attack as Niall Holohan intercepted a Socceroo attack. The Leitrim man played the ball down the wing to Aidan Russell Vargas who fed Cunningham at the edge of the box. The young Athenry star struck to the far post as the ball bundled past the Aussie defense.

Australia’s substitute Davd Seselja thought he got an equaliser four minutes into added time but he was ruled to be off-side so Ireland held on for the win. 

A nice start for the Irish as they make final preparations for the SAFIB Centenary Shield series opener away to Scotland on February 23. Ireland will then face Wales at home on March 9 while England come to town a fortnight later.

The Irish campaign will conclude on March 30 when they travel to Blanchflower Stadium, home of H&W Welders FC to take on Simon Nicks’ side.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND SCHOOLS SELECT | Ryan DELANEY (St. Francis College, Rochestown), Jonathan ADEDEJI (St. Mary’s Secondary School, Edenderry), Eli ROONEY (Summerhill College, Sligo), Niall HOLOHAN (Carrick on Shannon Community School), Senan MULLEN (St. Aidan’s Comprehensive School, Cootehill), Aaron HEALY (Coláiste Choilm, Ballincollig), Ryan McBREARTY (St. Mary’s Diocesan School, Drogheda), Adam O’HALLORAN (Clarin College, Athenry), Peter GROGAN (St. Mary’s CBS, Carlow), Rhys KELLY NOONAN (Coláiste Mhuire, Crosshaven), Jesse DEMPSEY (C) (Wexford CBS)

SUBS USED | Ronan MANSFIELD (Blackwater Community School, Lismore) for Dempsey (HT), Eoin KENNY (St. Mary’s College, Dundalk) for Kelly Noonan (HT), Stephen MOHAN (Clonkeen College, Blackrock) for O’Halloran (HT), Aidan RUSSELL VARGAS (Lusk Community College) for McBrearty (HT), Daithi FOLAN (Belvedere College, Dublin) for Delaney (75), Brian CUNNINGHAM (Presentation College, Headford) for Grogan (75), Callum BONNER (St. Patrick’s Classical School, Navan) for Mullen (75)

MANAGEMENT | John McSHANE (Loreto Secondary School, Bray), Derek O’BRIEN, Coach (Ardscoil na Mara, Tramore) Ollie HORGAN, Coach (St. Eunan’s College, Letterkenny), Conor FOLEY, GK Coach (Athlone Community College), Martin CAVANAGH, Equipment Manager (Carndonagh Community School), Michael McGLYNN (Physio), Dr. Aidan O’COLMAIN (Team Doctor)

AUSTRALIA SCHOOLS | Sebastian Arranz, Ryan Zanatta, Matej Busek, Ethan DeBono, Thomas Waddingham, Will Freney, Jesse Cameron, Cassidy Tanddo, Owen Henderson, Alexander Trajanoski, Liam Bonetug

SUBS USED |  Cayden Hendersn for Arranz (HT), Jesse Photi for Zanatta (HT), Noah Majeroni for Waddington (62), Jack Connors for Freney (75), Christian Bracco for Busek (81), David Seselja for DeBono (85)

INJURED | Isaac Collins

MATCH OFFICIAL | Thomas Joyce (Limerick)