Ireland U21: Kavanagh strike seals Amateur win

Ireland U21: Kavanagh strike seals Amateur win

Brandon Kavanagh's first-half strike sealed a hard-fought victory for the Republic of Ireland U-21s at Whitehall.
6th Feb 2019

Ireland U-21 boss Stephen Kenny will be impressed with the performance from his young guns as they turned in a dominant performance over the experienced Amateur side ahead of the UEFA U-21 European Championships qualifier against Luxembourg in March.

Stephen Kenny's training camp squad, which consisted of 18 players from the SSE Airtricity League, ended their three-day training camp with the win at Whitehall. Bohemians defender Darragh Leahy was ruled out of the game as continues to recover from injury whilst St. Patrick's Athletic midfielder Jamie Lennon captained the side. 

Ireland U-21s started the game at a ferocious pace which continued throughout the first-half. Ipswich Town striker Aaron Drinan missed an early chance from six yards after a great run and cross from Trevor Clarke in the third minute. 

Five minutes later, the pressure continued as Waterford's pacy-winger Zach Elbouzedi found the nimble Brandon Kavanagh on the right and after he turned past two players, his shot was well saved by Brendan O'Connell. 

UCD forward Neil Farrugia was a source of constant trouble for the Ireland Amateurs and it was his run and cross which saw the Ireland U-21s take the lead. He was able to get to the byline, past Christopher McCarthy, and cross for Shamrock Rovers' Kavanagh who tapped home just past the half-hour. 

The pressure continued as a flurry of chances saw Farrugia's header only half-cleared and Drinan latched onto the opportunity, only to see his low effort deflected wide in the 40th-minute. Ireland Amateurs almost equalised just a minute later as Sheriff's Paul Murphy caught sight of goal from 25-yards out but his powerful effort was tipped over by Conor Kearns. 

The pressure continued in the second-half as Stephen Kenny introduced Michael O'Connor and Robbie McCourt just past the half-time break. O'Connor saw himself involved almost immediately as he found Elbouzedi on the right who turned inside but his shot was right at keeper O'Connell in the 59th-minute. 

Bohemians' McCourt was also involved in the action just seven minutes later. Elbouzedi found the on-rushing full-back who saw his shot come-back out off the post but only as far as Kavanagh. He shifted the ball to his left but his shot was saved before O'Connor fired the rebound wide of the right-hand post. 

Ireland U-21s continued to look to add to their lead as Elbouzedi crossed for the lively McCourt on the edge of the area, but fired his first-time shot past the post in the 74th minute. Kenny's side failed to add to the scoreline which their dominance deserved as they recorded the victory at Whitehall.

"It was a really good test for the group. It was a really useful exercise and I think the players really enjoyed it. They really brought into it," said Ireland U-21 boss Stephen Kenny. 

"It was a really important camp with a new staff coming in as well ahead of the qualifiers against Luxembourg in March. The players showed a brilliant attitude over the three days and it was important for me to see the levels of the players.

"We've got a squad announcement in March and the question is would there be one or two players, or six or seven players from this squad in it. That's all in the balance.

"We got a closer look at the mentality of the players as well which is really important. Overall, I'm delighted with the camp and the performance was what we were looking for in many ways."

Republic of Ireland U-21: Conor Kearns, Trevor Clarke (Robbie McCourt 55), Liam Scales (Sam Todd 90), Conor McCarthy, Jamie Lennon (C), Zach Elbouzedi (William Fitzgerald 87), Neil Farrugia (Karl O'Sullivan 90), Brandon Kavanagh (Dan Mandroiu 78), Aaron Bolger (Jack Keaney 78), Andy Lyons, Aaron Drinan (Michael O'Connor 52). 

Ireland Amateurs: Brendan O'Connell (Gary Neville 62), Paul Murphy (Shane Gureins 60), Christopher McCarthy, Gary Delaney, Stephen McGann (Alan McGreal 46), Thomas Hyland, Liam Brady (Craig Walsh 49), Jordan Buckley (Niall Brennan 69), Eoin Hayes (Colm Carney 62), Shane Stritch (Enda Curran 69), Stephen Kelly (Conor Tourish 73).