REPORT | U17 EURO | Ireland secure Quarter Final spot
The young Boys in Green booked their place in the last eight thanks to two goals apiece from St. Patrick’s Athletic duo Luke Kehir and Mason Melia in a thundery conditions in Felcsut.
Hungary played their part in an entertaining game levelling the contest at 1-1 and scoring with 20 minutes remaining to set-up a nervy finish. But Ireland showed composure to see out the game at the Pancho Aréna to advance to the knock-out stages.
Ireland knew only a win would do to prolong their stay in the competitions and they started off on the front foot after going ahead in the fifth minute. The Hungarian defence failed to clear a ball put back into the box. Melia controlled it and passed to Kehir who kept his calm to strike beyond Áron Yaakobishvili for an early Irish lead.
The lead didn’t last long as Hungary equalised against the run of play. A Molnár Csaba Mílan free-kick was whipped into the box and the unfortunate Jake Grante headed into his own net.
Ireland responded well, Naj Razi managed to beat his man and square across the box for Kehir but this time the Pat’s man’s attempt was easily saved by the goalkeeper.
It would be his clubmate Melia who got Ireland back in front in the 24th minute. The striker chased down a lost cause and won a corner. From that corner Melia rose highest to head into the net from close range for his first goal of the tournament.
Shortly after it could have been three. Kehir was looking to add to his earlier goal and when he found himself free at the back post he could only head wide.
On the half-hour mark it was three to Ireland. Ike Orazi got the better of his full back and squared across goal for Melia to poke it over the line for his second of the game to send O’Brien’s side 3-1 ahead at the break.
Fifteen minutes into the second-half Ireland were four ahead. Razi was able to slip down the left-hand channel and he fed it across goal for Kehir to find the top corner with a beautifully measured strike into the top corner for 4-1.
However it would be poor marking from a corner that allowed Hungary back into the game. Martin Kern stooped low to head in in the 71st minute as Hungary sought an unlikely comeback.
Kehir had a great moment to get a hat-trick late on when Ireland counter attacked and he was released by Romeo Akachukwu. Kehir stood up his man and tried to bend into the far corner but Yaakobishvili saved smartly to keep out Ireland.
The final whistle was met with huge celebrations with Ireland winning back-to-back games to finish second behind Poland in Group A.
Ireland Men’s Under-17s Head Coach Colin O’Brien said: “It’s great experience for the players. I thought it was a very mature performance from the team. Some of the performances at certain stages were excellent and we had to show resilience. The boys stayed calm under pressure when the game got away from us at times. It’s great to see that because it means they’re growing and they’re developing.
“We’re the youngest squad here. I’m so proud of them because they’re a great bunch of lads, brilliant personalities, great values and the quality is there as well.”
Ireland: Healy, Babb, Turley (C), Grante, O’Sullivan, McGrath, Akachukwu, Razi (Moore, 75) Orazi (Murray, 88), Kehir, Melia (Oksoun, 67).
Hungary: Yaakobishvili, Girsik, Umathum, Kaczvinski, Hornyàk (Burghart, 76), Varga (Demkó, 86), Fenyö (Szabó, 46), Kern (C), Németh (Somfalvi, 76’), Simon, Molnar (Vidnyànszjy, 76)
UEFA European U17 Championship results and fixture (all times are Irish time)
Wednesday, May 17 | Poland MU17 5-1 Ireland MU17
Saturday, May 20 | Ireland MU17 3 v 0 Wales MU17
Tuesday, May 23 | Ireland MU17 4-2 Hungary MU17
Saturday, May 30 | UEFA European U17 Championship Quarter Final, Ireland MU17 v TBC, KO and Venue TBC