Ireland got their UEFA U-19 Championship qualification off to a winning start with a 1-0 win over Iceland at Tallaght Stadium. Having been released last week by Manchester United, Irish striker Sam Byrne had a point to prove and did just that with a brace in 10 second half minutes. Despite conceding to a Aevar Ingi Johannesson, Ireland hung on to take control of Group Four.
There was little to separate the teams in the first half, with Ireland escaping a scare when Eric Grimes sent a clearance straight to Elias Mar Ornasson after slipping but the referee felt that Kristjan Floki Finnbogason had fouled Grimes and gave Ireland a free.
Iceland were getting the upper hand and Kristjan Floki Finnbogason had a cracking effort tipped over by Grimes on the half hour. The Leeds keeper was called into action again when Dadi Bergsson got in behind the Irish defense and his shot across goal was saved by Grimes who got down well to his right as Ireland’s defense held firm.
Paul Doolin’s side were living off scraps with Alex O’Hanlon looking lively down the left but up front Sam Byrne cut a lonely figure on his own. O’Hanlon had a cross cut out by Iceland keeper Runar Alex Runarsson and at the other end Ireland were fortunate that Bergsson failed to direct his lob on target with Grimes rushing off his line. Ireland finished the half with Byrne and Steven McCarthy firing wide.
Half-time gave Ireland the chance to regroup and they started the better with Byrne just failing to get a touch to an O’Hanlon free-kick before the former Manchester United youth got the breakthrough.
Dylan Connolly created space for himself, getting away from two midfielders on the left touchline before crossing for Byrne who headed home past Runarsson on 50 minutes. It was 2-0 10 minutes later when Byrne met O’Hanlon’s corner and although Runarsson got a hand to it, he couldn’t prevent the ball from crossing the line after it came back off the post.
The O’Hanlon and Byrne show continued but the latter was caught offside on 66 when Ireland had a 2-on-1 after a lightning counter-attack. But as Ireland continued to press, Ireland were caught when Aevar Ingi Johannesson got on the end of a Adam Orn Arnasson free-kick to nestle the ball in the bottom corner with 68 minutes.
Credit to Ireland, they kept attacking with Byrne heading a Moseley cross straight at Runarsson after the latter got down the left and but his cross was a bit behind Byrne who did well to get it on target. In defense Norwich’s Kyle McFadden got in a sliding tackle to deny Aevar Ingi Johannesson and Byrne had a final chance with 10 minutes remaining but his effort was saved by the keeper.
With Serbia and Turkey having drawn the opening game in the group, Ireland can now look forward to Friday night’s clash with Turkey in control of the group and Byrne can almost certainly be looking toawrds a move to a new club sooner than perhaps expected on this performance.
Eric Grimes, 2 Noe Baba, 3 Bobby Moseley, 4 Kyle McFadden, 5 Sean Long, 6 Alan Browne, 7 Dylan Connolly, 8 Thomas Mulroney, 9 Sam Byrne, 11 Alex O’Hanlon (Colm Crowe on 88), 15 Steven McCarthy (Ryan Goldsmith on 76).
1 Runar Alex Runarsson, 2 Adam Orn Arnsasson (Albert Gudmundsson on 79), 3 Jon Ingason, 5 Samuel Kari Dridjorisson, Emil Asmundsson, 7 Aevar Ingi Johannesson, 9 Elias Mar Ornasson, 10 Kristjan Floki Finnbogason, 11 Dadi Bergsson, 14 Daniel Leo Gretarsson, 16 Sindra Bjornsson (Heidar Aegisson on 72).