Under-23s off to great start
Republic of Ireland 2 – 0 Slovakia
A superior Republic of Ireland Under-23 team were worthy winners over Slovakia in their opening International Challenge Trophy game at Dalymount Park.
Gavin Peers (Sligo Rovers) and Killian Brennan (Derry City) scored first-half goals to give Ireland a commanding advantage at the break and they could have added to their lead after the interval.
This fixture was Ireland’s first in the group stages. Next up is an away match against Northern Ireland in the spring with a home game to follow next autumn against Belgium.
Ireland took a deserved lead when Killian Brennan delivered an in-swinging free-kick into the back post where the unmarked Gavin Peers powered a header inside the near post past Slovakian goalkeeper Lukas Hrosso.
Brennan netted the second himself seven minutes later. Ger O’Brien raided down the right flank and his low cross found it's way to Stephen Rice, who shot as he stretched and the ball struck the crossbar.
Once more, the visitors failed to pick up and Brennan fired the rebound home despite Hrosso’s best efforts to stop the ball crossing the line.
Minutes later, Ireland could have had a third after Rice rifled a low shot from the edge of the box that Hrosso had to stoop low to block with his legs.
Cork City striker Denis Behan could also have extended the lead two minutes before the break when his curling header was pawed around the post for a corner by the busy netminder.
Pat Fenlon’s Irish team sustained the pressure in the second half and midfielders John-Paul Kelly and Paul Keegan ensured the Slovakians were run ragged.
Behan cushioned a header into the path of David Mooney six minutes into the second period but the eircom League of Ireland’s top scorer uncharacteristically drove his volley over the crossbar from ten yards.
Defender Conor Kenna tested the reflexes of Hrosso two minutes later when the UCD man got a glancing header on Brennan’s free-kick which was tipped over.
But the closest Ireland came to notching a third fell to captain Paul Keegan with 14 minutes left when he struck a thunderous shot from 25 yards that crashed off the crossbar.
Republic of Ireland: Barry Murphy - Shamrock Rovers, Ger O’Brien - Shamrock Rovers, Conor Powell – Bohemians, Conor Kenna – UCD, Gavin Peers - Sligo Rovers, Paul Keegan - Drogheda United, John Paul Kelly – Bohemians, Stephen Rice – Bohemians, Denis Behan - Cork City, David Mooney - Longford Town, Killian Brennan - Derry City
Substitutions: Ger Rowe - Shamrock Rovers for Behan (65 mins), Stephen O’Donnell – Bohemians for Rice (71 mins), Conor Sammon – UCD for Mooney (77 mins) and Patrick Kavanagh - Bray Wanderers for Kelly (88 mins)
Slovakia: Lukas Hrosso, Jakub Furman, Michal Gallo, Peter Janokis, Peter Cogley, David Lesko, Jan Zapotoka, Peter Shlek, Martin Juhar, Marck Khzma, Michal Duris.
Substitutions: Milos Lacny for Furman (46 mins), Peter Katona for Khzma (64 mins) Mikulas Toth for Lacny (82 mins) and Csaba Gabris for Duris (81 mins)
Referee: Richie Winter.