Luxembourg U-21 1 Ireland U-21 2
Jim Crawford savoured his first victory as Ireland U-21 boss as Jamie Lennon’s goal proved decisive in Luxembourg.
Last night’s game against the bottom side in their European group had been flagged as the moment Ireland would finally end their wait for a major qualification, but defeat in Sunday’s penultimate fixture against Iceland meant it was of limited consequence.
Three points ensured Ireland finished third in the table ahead of Sweden which will prove beneficial for seedings. The swansong, at least, ended on a plus for the majority of Crawford’s starters.
JJ Kayode crowned his first U-21 start by giving Ireland a 35th-minute lead in Beggen before Lennon came off the bench to extend the advantage on 65 minutes.
Kayode and Arsenal centre-back Mark McGuinness will still be eligible for the next campaign which kicks off next March.
Kenan Avdusinovic halved the arrears for the minnows with six minutes left but the dismissal of their captain Seid Korac in stoppage time ended any slim prospect of a comeback being pulled off.
“Thank God we won the game,” said a relieved Crawford afterwards.
“I still thought it was a comfortable victory. Apart from the ‘worldie’ of a goal they scored, we were hardly troubled by Luxembourg.
“Winning was a nice way to cap off the campaign and I felt we fully deserved the three points.
“I’m delighted for Jamie Lennon because he has done really well for St Pat’s in the last few weeks.
“I’ve spoken to his manager Stephen O’Donnell about how much we rate him and after initially coming into just train with us, he earned his call-up.
“It would have been very easy to bring in a load of extra young players but some of the lads finishing up with us have been in with us since the start of the campaign in March 2019.
“They deserved to play here and they got the job done. We’ve a lot to look forward to in the future.”
LUXEMBOURG – J Machado; L Bernardy, S Korac, E Dzogovic, L Schmit; K Avdusinovic, I Latic (L Duriatti 83), M Olesen; T Rupil, A Curci (L Coopmans 69), L Prudhomme (Y Schaus 69).
IRELAND – E McGinty; D McNamara, C Masterson, M McGuinness, D Leahy; T O’Connor (J Lennon 46), C Ronan; A Scully (D Grant 69), D Mandroiu (W Ferry 76), Z Elbouzedi; J Kayode (M Obafemi 76).
REF – KO Hamalainen (FIN).