Ireland's Eastern Region are Champions of Europe
Eastern Region (Irl) 1-0 Zagreb Region (Cro)
Both sides arrived at today’s European final in Tallaght Stadium with a full quota of nine points from their respective groups. Sreten Cuk’s side started without play-maker Bozidar Karamatic, who had caused so much trouble playing between the lines as they progressed from Group B. Gerry Smith’s charges, having overcome Ankara of Turkey, South Moravia of the Czech Republic and Bosnia’s Tuzla Canton en route, emerged full of confidence, and with a full squad to choose from.
However, the Croatians almost caused an early upset three minutes in when Nikica Brujic flashed a powerful shot just wide of Rockmount’s Brendan O’Connell in goal. Ireland soon settled and began to retain possession against a very physical Croatian side. Smith’s men opened the scoring in the ninth minute when Crumlin’s James Lee dispatched a well weighted cross from the right for a diving David Lacey to score a superb goal that had something of Van Persie’s World Cup magic about it.
Their tails up, the Irish players could have made it two in the period that followed. The best opportunity came after Tolka’s Noel Murray out-jumped the keeper to head the ball down for an unmarked James Lee inside the box. Despite his growing contribution and impact on the game, he sent his shot sailing over the bar, and will have been disappointed not to have troubled Nevistic in goal.
The Croats came back into the game in the second half and were buoyed when play-maker Bozidar Karamatic came on in the 57th minute. He made his influence felt immediately and didn’t seem to be showing any signs of a rumoured knee niggle. Despite the pressure, Ireland kept their shape admirably and fended off everything the Croats had to throw at them.
Indeed, the Irish players still looked far more threatening in attack and created a number of real opportunities as the game drew to a close. Thomas Dunne volleyed just over the bar from a Noel Murray cross. James Carr dummied Ivkovcic to go one on one with the keeper but sent his low shot narrowly wide and minutes later he weaved a pass through to Lar Dunne who sent his shot just over.
Cheered on by the strong home support, Gerry Smith’s men grew in strength as the clock wound down, and fully deserved to emerge Champions of Europe, lifting the UEFA Regions Cup in style.
Eastern Region (IRL)
Brendan O’Connell, Noel Murray, Rilwan Agi Sule (James Carr 68 ), Greg Moorhouse (Jonathan Rock 86), Kevin Lynch, Paul Breen, Ken Hoey, Darren Dunne, David Lacey (Thomas Dunne 60), Laurence Dunne, James Lee
Zagreb Region (CRO)
Stipe Nevistic, Robert Janjis, Arjan Rexhepi (Mario Cibaric 82), Matej Vrbat, Filip Rihtar, Matej Ivkovcic, Filip Peric (Josip Mohac 49), Dorian Puretic (Bozidar Karamatic 57), Nikica Brujic, Zeljko Stulec, Mislav Cuncic