REPORT | WU17 | Ireland qualify for next phase
A Darcie McNeill own goal early in the first half proved to be the difference between the two sides and ensured Ireland got the three points which sees them finish joint top of League A Group 3.
The young Girls in Green bounced back from a narrow 1-0 defeat to Austria in their opening fixture by defeating Finland 3-2 in their last outing to set up this crucial decider against their neighbours from the North.
Following a tame opening to proceedings, the Republic took the lead in the 18th minute thanks to a massive chunk of good fortune as Peamount United midfielder Jessica Fitzgerald’s dangerous corner to the near post was headed past her own goalkeeper by Darcie McNeill.
The visitors caused numerous problems with their pressing as Northern Ireland attempted to play out from the back.
After captain Jodie Loughrey fired straight at Kate Smith following such a counter-attack, the goalkeeper was lucky to see Sophie Keenan’s back pass roll under her foot and just wide of her far left post.
Ireland remained dominant in possession in the second period but their best attempts at doubling their lead all came from distance with Cork City’s Heidi Mackin sending a half-volley over from the edge of the box before Loughery blasted wide on the turn shortly past the hour mark.
Ellen Dolan and Loughrey would later direct their headers wide of the target but Ireland wouldn’t be made to pay the ultimate price for squandering those opportunities as they kept the home side scoreless to progress despite the best efforts of the talented Aimee Kerr
Speaking after the game, Republic of Ireland Women's Under-17s Head Coach James Scott said: "It was a tough win - I thought Northern Ireland were great. But going back to the game against Austria we were disappointed not to get anything from that game.
"Our objective from the start of the week was to qualify and we've done that. I'm delighted for the girls, they are top class and they're a credit to their clubs and their families."
Northern Ireland: Smith; Sweetlove, Canavan (Hampton 62), Loughran, Keenan; McIntyre (Conway 86), Moore (Myles 71), McNeill, Gargan (Breen 62); Weir (Quinn 71), Kerr.
Republic of Ireland: Richardson; Turner, Kelly, Mackin, Lille (Sena 68); Dolan, Healy (Daly ht), Fitzgerald; Gallagher (Fitzpatrick 54), Bergin (Ralph ht), Loughrey.
Referee: Jelena Kumer (Croatia).