Boy wonders turn on style to blitz hosts and seal spot in last eight
Ireland U-17 4, Hungary U-17 2
Having dumped the expectant tournament hosts out of the competition with a thrilling display, Ireland’s U-17 side now get ready to take on the very best of European talent with a quarter-final date in the European Championship finals next weekend.
St Patrick’s Athletic pair Luke Kehir and Mason Melia shared the Irish goals in a 4-2 win and they will deservedly get the plaudits, but this was a superb team display where boys like Danny McGrath, Romeo Akachukwu, Freddie Turley and the sublime Ike Orazi all played a part.
Their work done, Colin O’Brien’s side can now sit back for 24 hours and await the outcome of Group B today as Ireland play the winners of that one in the quarter-final on Saturday, likely to be Spain, although Serbia and Slovenia are also in contention, while a route to the World Cup finals is also potentially there.
Just like the opening game against Poland, Ireland had the dream start with the lead goal after just four minutes. It came from a set-piece which Hungary failed to clear, Melia was calm in the box, saw Kehir available and Kehir showed real poise to tee up his shot and fire home.
As also happened against the Poles, Ireland’s lead did not last long, Hungary level on nine minutes. Csaba Molnar floated in a free-kick and Crystal Palace defender Jake Grante was unfortunate to get the last touch and head the ball past his own ’keeper. That chance aside, Ireland had been on top and their dominance was rewarded on 23 minutes. From another set-play, Melia headed Ireland back in front, converting from Orazi’s corner-kick.
On 31 minutes, Ireland went 3-1 up after a superb team move which saw Razi find Orazi and Melia lost his marker to finish for his second.
Just after the hour mark, Ireland scored again to make it 4-1 and – so it seemed – seal a place in the last eight. Akachukwu did the hard work by winning the ball, Melia with the assist and fellow Saint Kehir with the fine finish.
A tame Hungary came out of their shell, getting a goal back on 71 minutes with a Martin Kern header and they looked as if they could pose a threat, but their attacks lacked conviction.
Goalkeeper Jason Healy was well protected by defenders like Daniel Babb, while Healy saved well late on, ending Hungarian interest as Ireland get into the tournament groove.
HUNGARY – Yaakobishvili; Hornyak (Burghart 76), Kaczvinszki, Umathum, Girsik; Nemeth (Somfalbi 76), Kern, Fenyo (Szabo 46), Varga (Demko 85); Simon, Molnar (Vidnyanszki 76).
IRELAND – Healy; Grante, Babb, O’Sullivan; Kehir, Akachukwu, Turley, McGrath, Orazi (Murray 88); Melia (Okusun 67), Razi (Moore 76).
REF – A Karaoglan (Turkey)