Saturday 22 September 2018

Mohan hails 'important point' in opening day draw with Dutch

Ireland gained a valuable point in the clash with the Dutch
Ireland gained a valuable point in the clash with the Dutch

Tom Mohan's Ireland Under-17s defended doggedly to earn a big point in their opening Group D clash with Holland in Bulgaria.

The Dutch wasted a host of chances with Ireland keeper Caoimhin Kelleher making two terrific saves.

Despite being under the cosh for long spells, however, Ireland might have snatched victory, twice hitting the woodwork in the dying minutes.

"It was a tough game, obviously, but I thought we played well," said Kelleher. "We knew we'd be under a bit of pressure, but we did well.

"I just have to make them," he said of his saves. "I've got to do it. That's what I'm there for.

"My job is made a lot easier if those in front of me play well. And they did really well."

A superbly timed tackle by midfielder Conor Levingston on Dutch striker Mink Peeters on seven minutes set the tone as Ireland were on the back foot for long periods against a slick Holland side.

Kelleher made his first telling stop with his feet from Carel Eiting before skipper Conor Masterson had Ireland's first chance when heading wide on 28 minutes.

Two minutes later, Ireland central defender Darragh Leahy somehow blocked a close-range shot from Javairo Dilrosun, who seemed set to score.

The impressive Leahy executed another tremendous tackle before Kelleher made his second top stop of the game on 58 minutes, pushing Eiting's shot onto a post with the ball scrambled clear.

For all that dominance, though, the woodwork twice saved Holland late on.

First Ireland substitute Jamie Aherne saw his header tipped onto the bar by Justin Bijlow on 77 minutes. The ball bounced down onto the goalline, but the referee deemed it didn't cross it.

Two minutes later, Connor Ronan shaved the outside of a post from a free kick.

"It's an important start for us, a big point," said manager Mohan.

"Because that's a good Dutch side. They're producing quality players every year and they're coming into the tournament on a high.

"We get ourselves recovered now and all thoughts are on Italy," added Mohan of Ireland's next game which is against the Italians in Star Zagora on Sunday.

Republic of Ireland: Kelleher (Ringmahon Rangers); Hanney (Shamrock Rovers), Masterson (Liverpool), Leahy (Coventry), Lunney (Preston); Agyei-Tabi (Arsenal), Livingston (Wolves); Ronan (Wolves); Elbouzedi (West Brom), Barrett (Reading), Clarke (St. Kevin's Boys). Subs: Scully (West Ham) for Livingston (55 mins.), Aherne (Lucan United) for Barrett (70 mins.).

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