Irish U19s qualify for semi-finals
The Republic of Ireland qualified for the UEFA European Under-19 Championship semi-finals after securing the runners-up spot in Group A thanks to a goalless draw with eliminated hosts Romania.
Prior to the encounter both sides had hopes of advancing to the last four yet it was the Irish who held on to seal their place after a frantic second half failed to produce an opening. Paul Doolin's side face tournament favourites Spain on Friday for a place in the final.
Having suffered defeats in their previous two games, Romania were determined to put on a show in front of the home crowd. Lucian Burchel's side enjoyed a bright opening and went close on two occasions, with Ionuţ Năstăsie the source of the danger. First he drilled wide having cut into the area and then drew a save from Aaron McCarey from a similar position.
Ireland appeared to lack the energy they displayed during an opening win against Greece and their subsequent loss to the Czech Republic, but they nonetheless probed in search of an opener. With ten minutes of the half remaining, Conor Murphy and Anthony O'Connor combined well, the latter providing a cross for Joseph Shaughnessy, who headed wide. John Egan's subsequent effort from O'Connor's corner produced a similar result.
The teams increased the tempo significantly following the restart and after O'Connor had a goal ruled out for offside, Romania broke up the other end and struck the top of the crossbar. The action continued to flow and it was Ireland who almost stole in soon afterwards when Kevin Knight's pass to the far post just avoiding Connor Smith's outstretched boot.
Romario Benzar's goal-bound blast from distance in the 66th minute elicited a smart save from McCarey as Romania continued to seek an all-important goal. They were to be frustrated again when Egan headed Sebastian Remeş's effort off the line.
Welcoming the result against Romania and qualification to UEFA Championship semi-final, FAI Chief Executive John Delaney said, "Having watched the game, the players showed real commitment in very difficult humid conditions to get a result. Despite being only his first year in charge, Paul Doolin has done incredibly well to get to this stage of the competition. We are very proud of the players and the management team for their their achievement in reaching the semi-finals," he said.
FAI President, Paddy McCaul added, "I would like to congratulate Paul and the players who continue to do our country proud at the UEFA Championship finals. We will all be firmly behind them once again for the semi-final against Spain next Friday," he said.
Ireland: Aaron McCarey, Matt Doherty, John Egan, Anthony O'Connor, Jeff Hendrick, Samir Carruthers, John O'Sullivan, Conor Murphy, Anthony Forde, Sean Murray, Joe Shaughnessy
Substitutes: Sean McDermott, Derrick Williams, Kevin Knight (on for Sean Murray, 56 mins), Kane Ferdinand, Eoin Wearen (on for Samir Carruthers, 74 mins), Declan Walker, Connor Smith (on for Conor Murphy, 64 mins).