UEFA Under-19 Championship elite stage Group 4 qualifer
Republic of Ireland 1-0 Poland
The Republic of Ireland registered an opening win in their UEFA Under-19 Championship elite stage qualifiers against Poland in Koszalin today courtesy of Jeff Hendrick's first half header.
A sizeable crowd of over 2,200 turned out to support the mini-group hosts in their quest to qualify from the four-nation pool for the European Championship finals this July in Romania but it was Ireland that took the initiative from early on.
John O'Sullivan showed Ireland's intend from as early as the 7th minute when the Blackburn Rovers midfielder saw his attempted chip draw a fingertip save from Poland goalkeeper Filip Bednarek.
The Irish forced the breakthrough from their next attack eight minutes later. Right-full Matt Doherty displayed great awareness to pick out the unmarked Hendrick in the penalty area and the cross was headed home by the Derby County midfielder.
Zejdler blazed over the crossbar on the half hour as the Poles sought a response yet Ireland goalkeeper Aaron McCarey went into the break without a notable save to make.
Ireland were afforded a let-off twelve minutes after the break when Pawlowski evaded a couple of tackles to raid into the box but skewed his shot wide of the target.
A minute later, the Boys in green were close to doubling their lead. Samir Carruthers was unlucky see his shot batted away by Bednarek and the defence got back to block the follow-up effort by substitute Declan Walker.
Anthony Forde was then presented with an opening after more good work by O'Sullivan yet the Wolves attacker was unable to keep his shot down as it flew over.
Ireland were made to withstand late Poland pressure but resolute defending, epitomised by brave Anthony O'Connor block from Pawlowski's volley, ensured they held out for a precious three points.
In the other Group 4 qualifier played today, Italy netted a second half winner to defeat Ukraine 1-0. Ireland are next in action on Thursday against Ukraine before concluding the series on Sunday by facing Italy. The top team from the group advances to the finals to be played in Romania in July.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: McCarey (Wolves); Doherty (Wolves), O'Connor (Blackburn Rovers), Egan (Sunderland), Williams (Aston Villa); Murray (Watford), O'Sullivan (Blackburn Rovers), Hendrick (Derby County), Carruthers (Aston Villa); Forde (Wolves), Murphy (Bray Wanderers).
Subs: Walker (Wrexham) for Murray (54 mins), Eoin Wearen (West Ham United) for Carruthers (66 mins).