Report from RISSC:
The Republic of Ireland U17 side prepared to meet England in the final of the Nordic Cup Tournament satisfied that a squad severely affected by late withdrawals had performed above the odds and with great distinction en route to the Laugardalsvollur Stadium in Reykjavik.
Ireland had topped their qualifying group with three victories and it was plain to see that a quiet confidence permeated throughout the young squad. On the eve of the final, manager Sean McCaffrey had indicated that he was optimistic his team would perform well and deliver victory.
During the early hours on the morning of the match, Reykjavik was lashed with violent rainstorms and hurricane like gusts of wind. As morning broke, the rain subsided but the wind continued to billow and blow with feverish ferocity. It was clear that conditions would be extremely difficult and the players would be presented with a significant challenge.
Sean McCaffrey made one change to the side that started the previous game against Denmark, with Limerick man Shane Duggan of Fairview coming into midfield for Killian Sheridan the Cavan native who plays with the Belvedere Club in Dublin. The very gusty wind was difficult to assess but whatever advantage it provided, accrued to England for the first half.
The opening minutes of the match were pursued with caution with both teams seeking to gauge the impact of the wind. On six minutes, Irish centre back Garry Breen who hails from Kilkenny was cautioned for a foul. Ireland adopted the same attacking 4-3-3 system which had served them well throughout the competition and broke the deadlock in the eight minutes when Donal McDermott and Tom Lyons put the central defence of England under intense pressure forcing a mistake which Crystal Palace striker Lyons exploited and rifled a cracking right foot shot into the roof of the net.
In the sixteenth minute, England had their first scoring opportunity when a long ball was misjudged in the wind by the Irish defence and a feeble back header was latched on to by English striker Richards, but he fired over the crossbar from just inside the penalty area. England continued to pressurise the Irish defence and on twenty minutes a wicked twenty yard drive was superbly tipped over the bar by Shane Redmond.
Ireland recovered their poise and began to enjoy some decent possession of their own, with the mesmeric left foot of Manchester City’s Donal McDermott causing problems for the English defence. In the twenty fifth minutes a late two footed tackle by Irish captain, Lorcan Fitzgerald, was punished with a yellow card for the West Ham United youngster. The match became a little scrappy with a long range England shot comfortably held by the Nottingham Forest bound Shane Redmond.
In the thirty second minute, Ireland suffered an injury scare when Shane Duggan was grounded but the midfielder recovered swiftly and continued to lend his magnificent energy and industry to the team. As the first half came to a conclusion, England’s efforts grew more fraught and their star winger Nathan Porritt was booked for a late challenge on Irish right back, Corie Treacy. The young Dubliner, who plays mainly in central defence for his club St Josephs, gave the England winger little change throughout the half.
With a minute to go before half time, disaster almost befell Irish goalkeeper Redmond when he drove a straightforward kick from his hands into the back of Richards for whom the ball dropped favourably but the big English striker failed miserably with his attempt to shoot into an empty net. In first half added time a further yellow card for a poor tackle was shown to England’s Karl Ashton.
Manager Sean McCaffrey introduced Terry Dixon of Tottenham Hotspur for Belvedere striker Karl Byrne at the start of the second half. Dixon’s participation in the tournament was restricted to ninety minutes by agreement with the White Hart Lane club as he had just recovered from injury. Ireland had used him sparingly as a substitute only in the Group stages but with three goals he was Ireland’s leading scorer and something of a talismanic figure.
The first effort on goal in the second half came from Tom Lyons whose quick turn and shot from outside the penalty area just went wide. Lyons, as he had done in his previous matches, led the Irish attack with great aplomb and his tireless foraging always provide his colleagues with an outlet. England responded on fifty five minutes when a defensive error allowed them a shot at goal but again the effort went wide. Two minutes later, they came much closer when following a corner which was partially cleared a midfield strike struck Ireland’s right hand post and stayed out.
Ireland reacted in positive fashion and forced a corner, which was delivered from the right by McDermott to the head of Breen but his effort went over the crossbar. The midfield industry of Cherry Orchard duo Michael Daly and Stephen Lawless together with Shane Duggan ensured that Ireland remained in composed command and kept England at bay. A poor late challenge on Irish goalkeeper Redmond briefly raised a few hackles but the Irish players swiftly regained their poise.
The willing Lyons almost made a further breakthrough on sixty seven minutes when he got in behind the English defence but a last ditch tackle denied him a scoring opportunity. In the seventieth minute, Killian Sheridan replaced McDermott who was feeling the effects of an earlier knock. A few minutes later, Lyons again got the better of his marker but his shot went wide.
England’s last effort of note came on seventy five minutes when a good break down their right offered Kay a clear sight of goal but his shot was well saved by the impressive Redmond. As the final minutes ticked away, that man Lyons showed again and his rasping shot was tipped over the crossbar for a corner. The corner was cleared but Ireland was awarded a free kick for a foul just over the half way line. Fitzgerald’s deep kick was met at the far post by substitute Sheridan whose header was parried by the English goalkeeper, but the Bevedere striker followed up to lash the ball into the net.
With two minutes plus added time remaining Ireland were now in total command and a late booking for Treacy did nothing to dampen the spirits of the players. Chris Day of MK Dons and Tottenham Hotspur’s Mark O’Toole replaced Stephen Lawless and the indomitable Tom Lyons for the final moments of what had turned out to be a glorious adventure.
In his immediate post match comments, manager Sean McCaffrey praised the application, commitment and dedication of his depleted squad. The manager also paid tribute to his coaching assistants Joe Boyle and Declan McIntyre and all of the supporting staff who contributed to the success of the venture. He made no mention of himself, but it was clearly evident from the reactions and words of those he had lauded that he is held in the highest esteem and regard by all of his team and is deserving of the utmost praise for his preparation of the squad.
Shane Redmond (Nottingham Forest)
Vincent Whelan (Wrexham)
Garry Breen (Manchester City)
Andrew Callaghan (Millwall)
Gavin Donoghue (Sunderland)
Lorcan Fitzgerald (West Ham United)
Conor Murphy (SCCPC USA)
Corie Treacy (St Joseph’s Boys)
Michael Daly (Cherry Orchard)
Christopher Day (MK Dons)
Shane Duggan (Fairview, Limerick)
Stephen Lawless (Cherry Orchard)
Donal McDermott(Manchester City)
Mark O’Toole (Tottenham Hotspur)
Karl Byrne (Belvedere)
Terry Dixon (Tottenham Hotspur)
Tom Lyons (Crystal Palace)
Killian Sheridan (Belvedere)