REPORT | MU16 | Ireland win tournament and end season unbeaten
William Martin’s third goal of the competition and a second-half penalty from Michael Noonan earned the win over Slovakia for Paul Osam’s team who end the season unbeaten.
The competition tops off a hugely positive campaign for the MU16s who lifted the Victory Shield back in November and followed it with strong performances over Switzerland. They won this tournament with wins over Latvia (4-2) and Ukraine (3-1).
Full of confidence, Ireland made the perfect start when they were ahead in the 4th minute.
Shelbourne’s Daniel Ring found himself on the Slovakian by-line, he patiently picked out Martin whose sweet left-footed strike found the bottom corner.
Patrik Jevoš went close in the 9th minute when his effort just flew past Noah Douglas’ near post. As Slovakia grew into the game Douglas was forced into a save as he managed to palm away a Kristian Pavol Stručka’s effort.
Slovakia had a glorious chance in the 27th minute when they almost capitalised on hesitancy in the Irish backline. A heavy back pass to Douglas proved awkward and the ball bounced to Denis Valk, he couldn’t compose himself in time before Luca Cailloce was on hand to clear the ball just over the cross bar for a corner.
In the 42nd minute the Slovakian pressure paid off. Martin Bačik picked out Samuel Kováčik, who was free 12-yards out, and he cooly finished to make it 1-1.
Osam made three changes at half-time with James Roche, Kyle Fitzgerald and Noonan all introduced. Fitzgerald had only been on the field a matter of minutes and made an instant impact when his pace and trickery saw him win a penalty.
Noonan, also fresh onto the pitch, stepped up and sent Adrian Malovec the wrong way for his 10th international goal of the season.
In the 56th minute Ireland somehow kept Slovakia out. Both Sean Moore and Cailloce throwing their bodies on the line to prevent efforts in the midst of a goal-mouth scramble as they looked to preserve their lead.
Noonan almost added to his tally when his 25-yard effort was tipped onto the post by Malovec as Ireland looked for that two-goal cushion.
The win saw Ireland end their season with six victories and two draws, scoring a total of 19 goals in eight games.
Speaking after the game, Head Coach Paul Osam said: “It has been an excellent week and I’m delighted to win the tournament. We have a number of players away with the Under-17s and gave five players their debuts, so to finish the tournament with three wins out of three is excellent.
“I felt we showed tiredness in the first half and were probably lucky to go in at 1-1. But we made changes, the players responded and we beat a very good side in Slovakia.
“The 3-1 win over Ukraine was particularly pleasing. It was the best performance from this group and perhaps the best performance in my time as Head Coach. Four or five years ago you were playing Ukraine and they’d have the ball 75 to 80 per cent of the time but it was the opposite this time and it’s us dominating possession.
“Those performances are what please me the most. I only realised yesterday we could go the whole season unbeaten, but even if we had lost today it wouldn’t have impacted how pleased I’ve been with the level of performances and the players development I’ve seen from this group this year.”
Slovakia: Malovec, Turansky, Pavlík (C), Stručka, Bačik, Valko, Vlna, Jevoš, Kováčik, Sagan, Ferenczi: Substitutes: Zajacm Mesvko, Valigura, Bukovsky, Osman, Polča, Trello, Kmet
Ireland: Douglas, Coffey, Cailloce, McCarthy (Roche, 46), McGlinchey (Egan, 65), Moore (C) O’Donnell, Ochoa Moloney (Vodo, 71), Martin (Umeh, 65), Lee (Fitzgerald, 46), Ring (Noonan, 46)
Referee: Lukáś Lauer (Slovakia)
UEFA Development Tournament results
May 10 | Ireland 4-1 Latvia
May 12 | Ireland 3-1 Ukraine
May 15 | Slovakia 1-2 Ireland