Republic of Ireland youngsters off to a flying start

SoccerBy Kevin Palmer
Dylan Connolly scored the Ireland winner against Andorra
Dylan Connolly scored the Ireland winner against Andorra


Dylan Connolly's lone strike was enough to ensure a winning start to the Republic of Ireland's European Under-21s Championship qualifying campaign.

The Ipswich winger struck 14 minutes before the break at Waterford RSC in front of senior boss Martin O'Neill and his assistant Roy Keane (below) to hand Noel King's youngsters the three points they had targeted to ensure their efforts to make it out of Group 2 began in positive fashion.

Ireland dominated throughout but were repeatedly thwarted by Andorra keeper Victor Silverio Pinto, who made a string of saves to keep the visitors in contention until the final whistle.

Ultimately, it was Connolly's 31st-minute effort which won the day as the keeper could only parry striker Conor Wilkinson's shot and Kenny McEvoy set him up to score.

The visitors thought they had levelled with nine minutes remaining when Aaron Sanchez Alburquerque headed past keeper Danny Rogers, but an offside flag ended his celebrations.

Pinto denied Callum O'Dowda and substitute Sean Maguire as time ran down to keep his side in the hunt, but all to no avail.

The Republic, however, will face sterner tests as they attempt to emerge from a group which also includes Italy, Serbia, Slovenia and Lithuania if they are to make it to Poland.

King's side will travel to Andorra in September for the return fixture before back-to-back clashes with Lithuania and Italy in October.