Ireland beat Malta in UEFA U17 qualifier
UEFA Under-17 first phase qualifier
Malta 1-3 Republic of Ireland
Muscat 72 James Murphy 12
Mikey Drennan 66
Kealan Dillon 79
The Republic of Ireland Under-17 got their UEFA Championship first phase qualifying campaign off to a winning start today (Saturday) by overcoming Malta at the Centenary Stadium, Ta'Quli.
Ireland are competing with mini-groups hosts Malta, Albania and Norway for the two qualifying berths into the elite phase of the competition which are due to take place early in the new year.
Today's victory, the first match under the helm of John Morling, was never in doubt once James Murphy fired Ireland ahead on twelve minutes.
Mikey Drennan had headed over and Jamie Smith had his header saved during a two minute period prior to the breakthrough goal but Reading striker Murphy made no mistake after Colm Horgan and Philip Roberts had combined to release the forward into a great position.
Ireland continued to press and Roberts was inches from netting a superb individual goal after he dribbled past three defenders and struck the post with a shot.
Murphy then saw his effort cleared off the line as Ireland finished the first half strongly.
The pattern of the game remained the same following the restart with the Irish peppering Malta's goal. Darragh Lenihan was denied by the goalkeeper on 51 minutes but there was nothing the custodian could do about Drennan's shot on 66 minutes which made it 2-0.
The goal arrived from a free-kick awarded for a lunge by Samir Arab on Ireland winger Kenny McEvoy which earned the Maltese defender his second booking of the contest.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, Malta then enjoyed their best period of the game and Muscat's expertly taken free-kick swept past Joe Coll on 72 minutes to reduce the arrears.
Ireland never looked like conceding again, though, and after Kealan Dillon's shot rebounded off the post, the same player made the game safe eleven minutes from time with a crisp strike following some excellent build-up play.
Republic of Ireland: Coll (Manchester United); Horgan (Salthill Devon), Smith (Newcastle United), Hoban (Watford), Kavanagh (Belvedere); Drennan (Aston Villa), Lenihan (Belvedere), Dillon (Derby County), McEvoy (Tottenham Hotspur); Murphy (Reading), Roberts (Arsenal),
Subs: Byrne (St Joseph's Boys) for Roberts (60 mins), Garmston (West Brom) for Drennan (67 mins).
UEFA Under-17 Championship first phase qualifiers
Saturday September 25
Republic of Ireland 3-1 Malta, Centenary Stadium, Ta' Qali (11am)
Monday September 27
Republic of Ireland v Albania - Centenary Stadium, Ta' Qali (2pm)
Thursday September 30
Republic of Ireland v Norway - Centenary Stadium, Ta' Qali (2pm).