The Republic of Ireland Under 18s finished in fourth place at the Slovakia Cup today after a 2-0 defeat by the host nation in the 3rd-placed play-off in Jaslovske Bohunice.
Donegal native Jack Keaney started in midfield for the Irish, while his Sligo Rovers clubmate Edward McGinty was also involved in the tournament.
A goal in either half sealed the win for the Slovaks, who in truth had the lion’s share of the possession. After a testing four games in five days it was not surprising that both sides showed signs of fatigue at times.
Slovakia went ahead in the 29th minute when Martin Vician headed to the net from close range from a well delivered corner.
Irish keeper Mark Travers made a number of impressive stops to keep his side in the game but Slovakia extended their lead in the 73rd minute when Lazio winger Denis Petro scored at the back post from a flicked on corner.
The visitors were down to ten men at this stage as Drogheda United striker Thomas Byrne was dismissed for two cautionable offences.
Shola Ayoola had Ireland’s only serious strike on goal midway through the first half but his effort flew over the Slovak crossbar while an Anthony Scully chip in the 33rd minute was well held by keeper Dominik Takac.
Irish head coach Jim Crawford was extremely pleased with the effort his side had displayed this week in difficult circumstances due to the unavailability of a number of squad members.
“I can only be proud of the performances the players put in this week. They were a credit to themselves, their clubs and their country. It’s been a demanding week for them but they met the challenge head on,” said Crawford.
“To beat a top class side like Turkey to finish second in our group and ultimately make the top four in this tournament is an excellent achievement by all concerned with the performances this week.
“The players have shown talent, work-rate and character and considering that Russia won the grouo by scoring nine goals in their other two games it puts our 0-0 draw with them firmly into perspective.
“I would especially like to mention how well the home-based players did this week. They performed so well and did their clubs proud and they now know what the next level is for them in their development as players.
“There were tired legs out there and we were punished for our defending at two corners but Slovakia were the host nations and showed their qualities too.
“The most important aspect of this tournament has been the learning for the players and the fact that Under 19 Head Coach Tom Mohan has been here observing the players and many will have shown him that they can do a job for him next season.”
Republic of Ireland: Travers; A Byrne, O’Sullivan, O’Hora, McSweeney; McKenna (Nicell 76), Keaney (J Martin 65), N Byrne (Mollett 76), Dillon (T Byrne 65), Ayoola (Flanagan 41), Scully (Hogan 41).
The Irish U18 team that faced Turkey, with Sligo Rovers’ Ed McGinty in goal.
Monday, April 24: Czech Republic 3-1 Republic of Ireland, Modranka
Tuesday, April 25: Republic of Ireland 0-0 Russia, Dunajska Luzna
Thursday, April 27: Republic of Ireland 2-1 Turkey, Dunajska Luzna
Friday, April 28: 3rd-4th play-off: Slovakia 2-0 Republic of Ireland, Jaslovske Bohunice