Ross Gaynor marked his debut for the Republic of Ireland’s U21 side with two important goals against Madeira tonight.
The Millwall striker’s excellent finishes helped secure a 2-2 draw for Don Givens’ youngsters against the host nation in the Madeira Invitational Tournament.
Ireland have never been beaten in this competition and Gaynor’s double maintained that record.
The Irish will meet Portugal on Friday (12 noon) in a game that will decide the destination of the trophy. The Portuguese beat Slovakia 4-0 in the other game of the day.
Madeira took the lead in the 15th minute through Jose Costa, who produced a prodigious lob over Irish keeper Rene Gilmartin from 30 yards.
Ireland equalised four minutes later after Jim O’Brien made a brilliant left-wing run before pulling the ball back for Gaynor to fire home via a deflection.
Madeira regained the lead in the 44th minute after a left-wing free kick by Carlos Moniz was headed home by Ricardo Sousa.
Madeira kept things tight after the break but James Simmonds came close to equalising in the 51st minute only to be denied by keeper Jose Silva.
It was not until the 75th minute that either side next threatened, with UCD midfielder Ronan Finn shooting narrowly across goal.
Gaynor was the Irish hero in the 83rd minute when he was cleverly set up by Michael Synnott and smashed past the exposed Silva for a beautiful equaliser.
Ardee native Gaynor was unlucky not to get a hat trick in injury time with a shot just over from the edge of the box.
Madeira: Silva; Freitas, Moniz, Graca, R Sousa, Gouveia, So, Faria, Ramos, Costa, Rodrigues.
Subs: M Sousa for Gouveia 46 mins; Pereira for Ramos 46; Vissimo for So 46; D Goncalves for Rodrigues 76; L Sousa for Costa 81.
Republic of Ireland: Gilmartin (Walsall); Kane (Blackburn), Powell (Bohemians), Murphy (MK Dons), O’Halloran (Aston Villa), Kelly (Bohemians), Simmonds (Chelsea), Morris (Scunthorpe), O’Brien (Celtic), Gaynor (Millwall), Hayes (Reading).
Subs: Chambers (Shelbourne) for O’Brien 46; Finn (UCD) for Powell 46; Dennehy (Sunderland) for Hayes 52; Synnott (Ipswich) for Kane 67.
Referee: P Paraty (Portugal).