U19s seal place in UEFA elite stage
UEFA U-19 Championship first phase qualifier
Republic of Ireland U-19 3-1 Russia U-19
It was mission accomplished for the Republic of Ireland Under-19s after they sealed progression into the elite phase of UEFA qualifiers by defeating nine-man Russia in Plovdiv on Tuesday.
A raft of permutations were possible going into the last series of fixtures but an Ireland victory would be enough to claim a top-two finish.
Bulgaria needed to better Ireland's result in their game to edge a place while Russia's continuation in the tournament depended on a landslide victory to boost their goal difference.
Though Paul Doolin's side did it the hard way, they got the required result. John O'Sullivan smashed an early shot off the crossbar for Ireland but Alisher Dzhalilov's 22nd minute strike had Russia ahead at the break.
A livelier Ireland side emerged for the second half, with George Smith going close to equalising on two occasions.
Paul George, on as a substitute, added guile for the Irish and a minute after seeing a strike being disallowed, the Celtic winger connected with a George Smith lay-off to level on 62 minutes.
The same pair combined two minutes later to make it 2-1. This time it was George Smith who slotted home.
Russia then lost their defender Aleksandr Manyukov to a red card and after Anthony Forde settled it with Ireland's third twelve minutes from time, another Russian player - Denis Kutin - was dismissed before the end.
Republic of Ireland U-19: McDermott (Arsenal); Barker (Bohemians), Byrne (Notts Forest), Hoban (Watford), McHugh (Dundalk); G. Smith (Southend United), O'Sullivan (Blackburn Rovers), Garmston (West Brom); Murray (Watford), Burke (Aston Villa), Forde (Wolves).
Subs: George (Celtic) for Burke (50 mins), Morrissey (Trieste) for Barker (88 mins)