THE World Cup finals in Brazil will, of course, go ahead without any Irish representation, but Irish fans could still get to see a team in green at a finals tournament this summer.
Paul Doolin’s U19 side are in with a good chance of reaching the European Championship finals in July after a superb win over Iceland last night.
Sam Byrne showed his class by claiming two goals in the space of nine minutes in the second half and while Iceland responded to claim a goal, this 2-1 win tees things up nicely for the second of Ireland’s three qualifiers, against Turkey tomorrow night.
Kildare lad Byrne faces an uncertain future at club level as he has just been released by Manchester United after three years at the club, but his international prospects look bright, especially as Ireland’s senior team management of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane were in Tallaght Stadium to see his two-goal contribution last night.
Iceland are no mugs - their U19 side reached this stage of qualification by eliminating France and Belgium - so the win was a perfect start for Doolin.
“We haven’t qualified yet but to get a win in your first game in a mini-tournament like this is great, I am delighted with the win,” said Doolin.
“If you get a draw in your first game it’s not a bad start so to get the win in the opening game, against very strong opposition, is a good sign.
“Being honest, this is not the best squad I have worked with but they are a good group and have good team spirit, they were excellent in the second half. Alan Browne in midfield was outstanding, Sam Byrne took his goals well, Seán Long was very strong at the back.”
Doolin’s side, playing the first home competitive game in a number of years, took their time in getting to grips with the game, and could have fallen behind in the first half following a period of Icelandic pressure.
That passage of play seemed to spark some life into Ireland, who slowly exerted more influence on the game. The erratic keeper Runarsson was finally beaten on 51 minutes by Byrne. Thomas Mulroney floated in a cross and Byrne headed home from close range.
Byrne’s second came on the hour mark, this time O’Hanlon the provider as Byrne again found the target even though the keeper got a hand to his effort.
Iceland did nick a goal back on 66 minutes when Grimes was beaten as Aevar Ingi Finnbogason was left unmarked at the far post.
And captain Long underlined his importance with a crucial block in the last minute which cleared a moment of real danger.